Monday, July 25, 2005


About a year and a half ago, apparently, Donald Rumsfeld sat stark upright in bed in the middle of the night as it occurred to him that counterterrorism was best handled cooperatively between nations. The entire universe then responded "No shit."

The Pentagon's new strategy
emphasizes "encouraging" and "enabling" foreign partners, especially in countries where the United States is not at war. Concluding that the conflict cannot be fought by military means alone--or by the United States acting alone--the new Pentagon plan outlines a multipronged strategy that targets eight pressure points and outlines six methods for attacking terrorist networks.


Going after high-value targets like Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Zarqawi, his emir in Iraq, is still a big part of the strategy but only a part. Three less direct approaches will now receive much greater emphasis: helping partner nations confront terrorism, going after supporters of terrorist organizations, and helping the State Department-led campaign to reduce the ideological appeal of terrorism. The latter category includes such things as military-provided humanitarian aid. U.S. aid to tsunami victims, for example, dramatically swung Asian public opinion from a negative to a positive view of America. Despite fears that the U.S. military is waging a duplicitous propaganda war, many military officials say that "information operations" are an inevitable dimension of warfare and must play a role, along with the State Department's public-diplomacy efforts.

I hope this will be perceived as a thumb in the eye to the priapic warblogger types who constantly ridicule the "law enforcement" approach to counterterrorism. Yes, Glenn, it's a lot less exciting than the Abrams-tank-crashing-through-a-wall method that gets you and your 101st Fighting Keyboarders so moist, but it's also more likely, indeed has proven, to produce actual results. Just saying.

For a Pentagon that has been seen as primarily championing pre-emptive attacks against terrorist threats, the new strategy's enthusiastic embrace of foreign partners is a real sea change. [Doug] Feith describes the reasons for it. "How do you fight an enemy that is present in numerous countries with whom you're not at war?" he asked. "The answer, in many cases, is we're going to have to rely on the governments of the countries where the terrorists are present. We can't do it ourselves, because you're talking about actions on the sovereign territory of other countries. . . . We need to have countries willing to cooperate with us and capable of doing the things they need to do to serve our common interests."

This seems an almost complete, though of course completely welcome, retreat from the obstinate unilateralism of the Bush Doctrine. Hopefully, some Democrat much more notable than me will take the opportunity to point out that Rumsfeld's Pentagon has essentially adopted John Kerry's strategy for fighting the war on terror.

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