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July 22, 2004
Executive Summary: Balanced And Disappointing

In reading the Executive Summary, one gets the impression that a lot of effort went into writing a document that maintained a level of professional detachment that, unfortunately, gets a bit lost in the earnest but often odd recommendations at the end. The recommendations start off by defining the enemy a bit more clearly than others have, but not quite as clear as one would hope from a commission that has studied this problem so thoroughly:

The enemy is not just terrorism. It is the threat posed specifically by Islamist terrorism, by Bin Ladin and others who draw on a long tradition of extreme intolerance within a minority strain of Islam that does not distinguish politics from religion, and distorts both.

The enemy is not Islam, the great world faith, but a perversion of Islam. The enemy goes beyond al Qaeda to include the radical ideological movement, inspired in part by al Qaeda, that has spawned other terrorist groups and violence. Thus our strategy must match our means to two ends: dismantling the al-Qaeda network and, in the long term, prevailing over the ideology that contributes to Islamist terrorism.

Quite frankly, this politically correct gobbledygook is part of the problem America has in facing our enemy honestly. Earlier in the summary it talks about how seductive Islamofascism is to Muslims who see the world through the prism of nine centuries of failure. Now in this section, we are told that Islamic culture is a "great" movement perverted by a just a few fascists. Let's be honest with people and quit pussyfooting around -- the Islamic world has a large percentage that boils over with pent-up frustration at their lot and gravitate towards Islamofascism, because their existing political structures don't allow for individual political action or dissent to resolve their frustrations.

Instead of identifying this as a root cause of terrorism, the commission makes more mealy-mouth recommendations instead:

Define the message and stand as an example of moral leadership in the world. To Muslim parents, terrorists like Bin Ladin have nothing to offer their children but visions of violence and death.America and its friends have the advantageour vision can offer a better future.
Where Muslim governments, even those who are friends, do not offer opportunity, respect the rule of law, or tolerate differences, then the United States needs to stand for a better future.
Communicate and defend American ideals in the Islamic world, through much stronger public diplomacy to reach more people, including students and leaders outside of government. Our efforts here should be as strong as they were in combating closed societies during the Cold War.
Offer an agenda of opportunity that includes support for public education and economic openness.

Support for public education? Again, this list reads more like a guide for the politically correct, "standing" and providing "support" all of the acceptable causes, but taking no action whatsoever to create an improved atmosphere for oppressed Muslims. What they propose is the UN approach -- talk, talk, talk while New York burns. It's a recipe that looks remarkably similar to the twelve-year Iraqi quagmire. The only sensible suggestion in the entire section is to recast our relationship with Saudi Arabia based on other interests than oil, but since the terrorist incidents in the Kingdom began occurring last year, that's already in progress.

They do better in suggestions for preparing for and protecting against future terrorist attacks, especially in their insistence in developing biometric security protocols for quick identification and screening. They also note that 90% of transportation security funds goes to air transport, a key issue. While the last attack took place with commercial aircraft -- and the next one could, as well, if we relax -- aircraft are not the only guided missiles available. We share highways with gas tankers every day, for instance, one of which could easily kill as many as one of the airplanes did on 9/11 did, under the right circumstances. They also insist on sending funds to the areas most at threat, New York City and Washington DC, rather than allowing security funds to be used for pork-barrel politics -- and we wish them every bit of luck in achieving that particular goal.

After this, the summary goes into sloganeering with a vaguely Orwellian chant of "Unity of Effort" leading off each section that outlines a massive reorganization of the intelligence, law-enforcement, and defense agencies involved in fighting terrorism. It's not exactly a centralization of effort, as it proposes to leave CIA functions in the CIA, FBI functions in the FBI, and so on. It appears to be more of an overlay than a reorganization, drawing new lines between already-existing units.

The chart on Page 23 is much more coherent than the bullet points that supposedly explain it. The commission proposes a new position called the National Intelligence Director, a deputy-Cabinet-level position that reports only to the President. Under that new position would be three subordinate positions (deputy NIDs), and only under the DNIDs would be the heads of CIA, FBI, NSA, and so on. I understand why the commission wanted to put these organizations into discrete categories -- foreign intelligence, defense intelligence, and homeland intelligence -- but rather than pushing the actual intelligence farther from the President and burying it under two new layers of bureaucracy, why not just reorganize the alphabet soup of agencies into three and skip the two levels of bureaucrats, all of which would require Senate approval? It has the potential of throwing months of misdirection into our anti-terrorism efforts every four years.

It amounts to a good effort, especially at piecing together the chronology of events leading up to and including 9/11. But in terms of analysis and recommendations, we wound up with nothing better than we should have expected from career bureaucrats in the age of political correctness -- a simple (but lengthy) mouthing of multicultural platitudes and a platform of expanding bureaucracies when we should be streamlining them and making them more responsive.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 22, 2004 8:06 PM

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