TO: Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
FROM: The Center
SUBJECT: Global War on Terrorism
We read with interest your memo of October 16. We were disappointed to have been left off the distribution list.
The questions that you raise in your memo are vitally important. We thought we’d take a stab at a few of them.
Q: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is our current situation such that “the harder we work, the behinder we get?”
A: We agree with your observations that we are having “mixed results” with Al Qaeda; making some progress on finding the top Iraqis and much less when it comes to the Taliban.
We disagree, however, with your observation that “we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing.” Let us suggest some indicators, keeping in mind that President Bush has defined Iraq as the “central front” in the global war on terrorism.
• Gen. Sanchez reports that the attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq have risen to 35 per day from 25 per day.
• Lt. Gen. Schwartz told reporters yesterday that Ansar al Islam is our “principal organized terrorist adversary in Iraq right now.” Your memo says we’re doing nothing about this.
• An August AEI-Zogby poll asked Iraqis whether they felt the U.S. would help or hurt Iraq over the next five years. 35 percent said they thought the US would help. In comparison, 61 percent said Saudi Arabia (which, as you might have heard, is attending the Donor Conference for Iraq with a “basket of thoughts” – and no cash) would help.
• The expected contributions at the donor conference in Madrid will provide little more than a tenth of what we need, in addition to the $20 billion we’ve put on the table. We all know what this means – as your friend Tom DeLay said on Fox News Wednesday, “It’s all the same war on terror. And in order to win this war, we have to do everything that we can to win the war. Part of that is the reconstruction of Iraq.
Looking beyond Iraq, we also find mixed results. On the public opinion front, we refer you to the 2003 Pew Global Attitudes Project, which found that fewer than one-quarter of respondents in Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, and Jordan said they support the war on terrorism.
You might also find interesting the final report of the administration’s Advisory Panel on “Changing Minds, Winning Peace,” which calls for “an immediate end to the absurd and dangerous underfunding of public diplomacy in a time of peril, when our enemies have succeeded in spreading viciously inaccurate claims about our intentions and our actions.”
On who’s winning the struggle for hearts and minds, we refer you to the most recent audiotape from Osama bin Laden and the most recent videotape of General Boykin’s sermons.
Q: Does the U.S. need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?
A: On seeing this question, we phoned your office to make sure the date of the memo (October 16, 2003) was correct. Your briefings and Administration statements over the past two years had led us to believe that you had thought through the war on terrorism before you launched it.
We were further puzzled that you are asking this question now, considering that you and the members of the Project for a New American Century built the case for war with Iraq in 1997, six years prior to the first strike on Baghdad.
In response to your question, the answer is yes: we need a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists. We believe, however, that this war must be waged on multiple fronts and that we must move beyond preemptive military strikes to address issues that go far beyond the normal purview of DoD. We are preparing a more extensive memo covering these issues.
Q: Should we fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere – one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem?
A: On this point, we must admit to being confused. You seem to be suggesting the creation of more government.
We wonder whether you have changed your mind since early in the Administration when you said: “People all across this country have worked their heads off, paid taxes and want to be defended and protected, but they want to be done as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible and big government can’t seem to do that.”
We suggest that at the next Cabinet meeting, you chat with Tom Ridge about his progress in building the new Department of Homeland Security. FYI, we have attached to this memo recent reports from the General Accounting Office that outline that new department is suffering from poor coordination, significant management challenges, and overall disarray.
Q: Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental?
A: Nobody would use the word “modest” to describe today’s Pentagon.
Gayle Smith is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Robert O. Boorstin is the Senior Vice President for National Security at the Center for American Progress.