Some of the best movies have ensemble casts. So too with books. When you’re writing a book about war and what we need to be doing to put ourselves on a better War Footing, a collection of the best experts you can gather is exactly what you’ll want to have. This is what Frank Gaffney has done with War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World. In it, he prsents essays from the likes of Michael Rubin, Andrew C. McCarthy, and Claudia Rosett.
Gaffney, an NRO contributor, recently took questions from NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez on the book and the road to victory.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Um…Frank. We were attacked almost five years ago. Are you telling me we’re not on war footing yet? Are we a little slow on the uptake?
Frank Gaffney: Our military is certainly waging combat operations on a demanding and worldwide basis. But the rest of the country and particularly the American people have not been asked to do much for the war effort. Except, that is, to go shopping.
If we are serious about winning this war–and, given the determination of our enemies (most immediately, the totalitarian political ideologues we call Islamofascists) to destroy us, we had better be–the nation as a whole is going to have to be mobilized far more comprehensively. In War Footing, we have laid out ten ways in which that should be undertaken.
Lopez: Is the president serious about immigration?
Gaffney: From his first day in office, President Bush has been very serious about finding a way to assure a steady stream of immigrants to perform work he is convinced Americans either can’t or won’t do. As a result, he has seemed–until recently–at best indifferent and at worst hostile to steps that would make it more difficult for illegal aliens to fill such jobs (i.e., by securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws).
Lately, in the face of indisputable evidence that his position has become politically untenable, the president has signaled a new commitment to addressing the dangers posed by illegal immigration. We believe, however, that the question of whether Mr. Bush and other elected officials will be willing to follow through on this agenda will require Americans who want such action to hold them accountable.
We recommend toward that end a Secure America Pledge–a platform that every incumbent and challenger ought to be asked to sign, thereby committing themselves to principles that can translate into serious corrective measures on immigration. This pledge is available in War Footing and at www.WarFooting.com.
Lopez: Do you want to “marginalize the U.N.”?
Gaffney: It has become clear that the United Nations is not merely corrupt, mismanaged, and profligately wasteful. The U.N. is unalterably dominated by enemies of freedom who have turned it into an instrument of political warfare against the United States and other free nations, most notably Israel and Taiwan.
That being the case, trying to “reform” the U.N. in ways that would really make a difference is mission impossible. We should instead marginalize the organization, focusing our funds where they can do the most good (for example, in humanitarian operations) and stop legitimating the U.N.’s deliberations, dictates, and leadership. Instead, the United States ought to take the lead in establishing a new “world body”–one made up exclusively of bona fide democracies.
Such an entity–call it “the Free Nations”–would provide, at last, a global mechanism that actually does promote peace and freedom. The Free Nations would also be far more capable of dealing effectively with the threats authoritarian regimes pose to international security and liberty than the United Nations, which actually serves as a protection racket for such regimes.
Lopez: What’s the most important underreported front in the war on terror?
Gaffney: The single most serious and least-known threat we face is the possibility that an enemy state, or possibly a terrorist group, could launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile from a ship off our coasts. According to a blue-ribbon commission chartered by Congress, the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) unleashed from even a single weapon detonated high over the United States could have a “catastrophic” effect on the entire country’s electrical system and electronics. We call it the mega-threat you never heard of.
The Russians and Chinese understand an EMP attack’s potential to turn this country in the blink of an eye from a 21st-century superpower into a pre-industrial society. There is evidence that the Iranians and North Koreans do, too, and are working hard to acquire the means to execute such a strike. And, who knows, with the help of one or the other of these nations, such a capability may be within reach even for an al Qaeda.
Unfortunately, while our actual or potential enemies all understand our vulnerability to EMP attack, the American people and many of the elected representatives are oblivious to it. We cannot afford to allow that to continue to be the case, or to persist in our inaction on steps that could address this threat.
Lopez: Give me a break. Conservatives don’t trust academia. But you want to recruit academia? On the war effort? Were you sleeping during the Solomon Amendment oral arguments? Some of these schools don’t even want the military able to recruit on campus, Frank!
Gaffney: We are under few illusions about the hostile attitude of many in the professoriat towards this country’s current leaders, their policies, and even traditional American values. These views, and their insidious effect on impressionable students, are deplorable. What is completely unacceptable, though, is when those who engage in such behavior are being paid $120 million per year by American taxpayers to prepare the next generation of specialists in languages, cultures, and regions of the world of enormous importance for our success in the War for the Free World.
What is more, President Bush has just unveiled a new initiative aimed at investing additional, vast sums in institutions of higher learning–both military and civilian–where such training can be performed. Unfortunately, as Step 10 of War Footing makes clear, unless some changes are made in the way federal largesse is provided to places like academia’s regional studies centers, this well-intentioned and laudable initiative may amount to throwing good money after bad.
Already, some academics–notably Juan Cole, president of the leftist Middle Eastern Studies Association of North America–have expressed concern about the fact that much of the funding Mr. Bush is proposing will go to the U.S. military academies and language institutes. He is also worried that there may be “strings attached” to the funds given to civilian institutions. All we can say is that there had better be some strings attached, especially if the likes of Dr. Cole–who makes no secret of his anti-Semitic and anti-U.S. sentiments–are going to be getting their hands on any more of our money.
Lopez: Should we be freaked out about China?
Gaffney: The Communist Chinese regime has reached a point where it can no longer conceal its ambitions, and seems increasingly disinclined to do so. The government in Beijing clearly intends to displace this country as the world’s preeminent economic power–with all that implies for our strategic interests in Asia and beyond, our access to energy and other vital resources, our alliance relationships and, yes, our national security.
In fact, the PRC is working assiduously to acquire the capability to defeat us militarily, should it prove necessary to do so. In keeping with the admonitions of ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, however, Communist China clearly hopes to obtain the necessary “correlation of forces” to prevail without having to go to war.
Rather than simply “freak out” about such prospects, we believe this country (and, ideally, other freedom-loving peoples) must take steps to prevent their realization. As with every aspect of our strategy for waging this War for the Free World, we suggest in War Footing specific, concrete measures that should be adopted toward that end.
With respect to Communist China these include: 1) encouraging regime change (by, for example: making the use of political warfare techniques to discredit and de-legitimate this threatening government, supporting Taiwan, strengthening and empowering pro-freedom elements within China); 2) deterring the PRC (notably, by beefing up our military presence and power-projection capabilities and those of our democratic allies in the region, and by increasing our collective defense cooperation, training and ties, including multilateral ones with Taiwan); 3) cultivating where appropriate a countervailing economic, military and strategic partnership with India; and 4) using America’s economic leverage (especially with respect to the stock offerings of dubious Chinese state-owned enterprises in the U.S. capital markets).
The United States hardly needs a new enemy at this point. It is a mistake, however, to think that we can neutralize an emerging adversary by choosing to overlook its ambitions and rising power. We will not avoid future conflicts with China, including possibly military ones, simply by hoping that they will not occur–or, worse yet, by thinking that we can appease the PRC.
Lopez: What’s going to happen with Iran?
Gaffney: With each passing day, the danger posed by the Islamofascist mullahocracy in Tehran is becoming more apparent. President Ahmadinejad’s incessant, incendiary statements calling for, among other things, “wiping Israel off the map” and “a world without America” are being accompanied by steady progress towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems with which the Iranian regime may seek to accomplish such objectives.
Unfortunately, such progress means that time is rapidly running out on the clearly preferable option: a concerted effort to help the Iranian people accomplish the overthrow of the repressive regime that misrules them and threatens us. There may yet be opportunities to make clear, at the very least, that the purpose of military actions we may be compelled to take is to advance that objective, not simply to disrupt a nuclear program that many Iranians–even those hostile to the regime–consider to be a source of national pride and stature.
Especially if the window for exercising these options closes, it seems likely at this juncture that it will soon become necessary, for the United States (ideally, with help from other freedom-loving nations) to use military and covert intelligence means to do what we can to neutralize Iran’s incipient ability to carry out Ahmadinejad’s threats.
Lopez: How does Africa fit in vis-à-vis our national security and the war?
Gaffney: We argue in the book that the African continent may well prove to be a pivotal theater in this War for the Free World. Certainly, the Islamofascists, their sponsors (Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Libya) and their allies (South Africa’s African National Congress-dominated government and Communist China) think so.
Regrettably, to date, we have thus far done all too little to counter the inroads being made by our assorted declared and undeclared adversaries in their quest to control the populations, territory, and resources of sub-Saharan Africa. In War Footing, we argue for, among other things:
1) substantially ramping up the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI) , a very promising but poorly funded program for helping those who aspire to freedom in Africa to build a comprehensive security framework;
2) waging political warfare against the rising tide of Islamofascism by choking off its sources (notably, the financial support provided by non-African Islamist regimes) and by greatly increasing strategic communications to the continent (the Voice of America only allocates a paltry $11.5 million per year to its broadcast operations in all of Africa);
3) redirecting funds from generally wasteful, government-to-government official development assistance to allow the TSCTI and public-diplomacy operations in
Africa to be ramped up considerably.
Lopez: How big a threat is “Chavismo”?
Gaffney: Hugo Chavez has emerged in recent months as not only an ever-more-authoritarian figure in his native Venezuela. He has become a driving force behind the destabilization and leftist takeover of Latin America.
Chavez, whose ideology might be called “Chavismo” to reflect its egomaniacal form of tyranny, is lavishly spending his country’s petro-wealth to advance a rabidly anti-American agenda he has developed in league with his mentor, Castro’s Fidel Castro. Just as Chavez has systematically consolidated governmental power at the expense of individual freedom at home, he is seeking to do the same elsewhere in our hemisphere–and to make common cause with those in the Middle East, Africa, Russia, and Asia who have a similar agenda.
Left unchecked, these efforts will give rise to new threats to U.S. allies, interests and security. Consequently, America must urgently address itself to the deteriorating situation in Latin America, develop the means to counter Chavismo and help the Venezuelan people liberate themselves and their region from the scourge Chavez’s aggressive despotism represents.
Lopez: Of the ten steps the book outlines, which have we made the most headway on? And the least?
Gaffney: We have made most progress on one facet of the task of securing our homeland with the enactment of the Patriot Act. The adoption of that legislation shortly after the 9/11 attacks updated the legal basis for the law-enforcement and intelligence communities’ counterterrorism efforts. It also afforded them tools they need to try to prevent further–and possibly far more devastating–acts of terror here at home.
Unfortunately, even that progress is now in jeopardy as some senators appear determined to weaken the Patriot Act. As a result, provisions that had to be renewed may be allowed to expire. Were that to happen, the effect would be to create fresh vulnerabilities that our enemies may try to exploit, at potentially great cost to the nation and its people.
As to the second part of your question, we have made precious little progress with respect to what is, arguably, the preeminent challenge of our time: Recognizing that we are at war with a totalitarian ideology, Islamofascism, that is bent on our destruction. The president has lately begun to acknowledge this reality at a rhetorical level, but much remains to be done to recognize the magnitude of the threat this ideology represents and, in particular, to counter those who make it so dangerous.
Of the latter, the most insidious is Saudi Arabia, a nation we persist in describing as an ally and partner in the so-called “War on Terror,” even though it has long played a cynical and dangerous double game: On the one hand, the Saudi government represents itself as our friend, selling us oil and buying our arms. On the other hand, it uses the funds it obtains from oil purchases by us and other Free World nations to promote Islamofascism around the world and to create the global infrastructure that will enable that ideology to dominate the Muslim faith and, in due course, non-Muslim societies, as well. Until we are able to prevent Saudi Arabia and others who sponsor or enable this dangerous ideology from doing so, we are unlikely to make much decisive or lasting progress in this war.
Lopez: Which chapter of War Footing would you like to read aloud to every public servant?
Gaffney: Truthfully, I can’t think of a single one of the steps in War Footing that can safely be ignored by the public or their representatives. They each represent part of a synergistic whole. The magnitude of the danger we face requires that we mobilize the nation’s energies and abilities in each of these areas. If we fail to do so in one, the rest are likely to be that much less effective–and perhaps to our severe detriment.
One of my personal favorites, however, is the chapter that describes Step 8, the theory and practice of “political warfare.” It shows the pivotal role that the highly developed techniques employed every day in the cut-and-thrust of domestic politics could play were they to be brought to bear against our enemies.
Ronald Reagan understood intuitively, and practiced brilliantly, the art of political warfare. Arguably, it underpinned and was essential to the success of his strategy for destroying the Soviet Union. We desperately need to use such techniques today if we are to have any hope of avoiding the need for much more costly (both in lives and national treasure) means–i.e., military ones–to contend with our enemies down the road.
Lopez: What’s action item one from the book?
Gaffney Again, we really need to be pursuing every one of the steps we recommend. There is one, though, that is particularly ripe for early action by the president and the Congress in the next few months: the blueprint we have recommended for energy security. Bipartisan groups on both sides of Capitol Hill–led in the Senate by Senators Joe Lieberman, Sam Brownback, and Jeff Sessions and in the House by Representatives Jack Kingston, Eliot Engel, and Jim Saxton–have introduced legislation that would, over time, make a huge difference in the amount of oil we consume in the transportation sector of our economy.
Specifically, it would encourage the widespread introduction of “fuel choice”–ideally leading to every car sold in America having the ability to use alternative fuels, not just gasoline. It would stimulate far greater production of such fuels as biodiesel, methanol and ethanol, preferably in “plug-in hybrid” vehicles that will permit electricity also to be used as a relatively cheap transportation fuel.
These are practical, near-term measures that can enable us to respond to the national security imperative of reducing the amount of oil we buy from regimes that are, at best, unstable and, at worst, trying to kill us. It can also make us less vulnerable to acts of terror against the oil infrastructure and less likely to come to blows with the Chinese over energy in the future.
In addition to being able to make large quantities of these alternative fuels at home, as the transportation fleet becomes ever better able to use them, we would have another strategic opportunity: By buying ethanol that Latin American and Caribbean countries that can produce in volume and very efficiently sugar cane, we have a chance to transfer wealth to relatively friendly nations, build up their economies and give their people reasons to stay home–rather than try to get across our borders illegally.
We hope in his State of the Union address this year that President Bush will join far-sighted legislators in embracing and moving forward on this energy-security blueprint we call “Set America Free.”