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National Strategy for Countering Terrorism

September 6, 2006


Yesterday President Bush released the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. The White House also released a press release highlighting the key points from the document. The new strategy notes that the war on terrorism is about both arms and ideas. “Arms and ideas,” however, provide too narrow a focus for countering this very complicated challenge, a point the document actually makes. One of the objectives of this new strategy is to “create a global environment inhospitable to violent extremists and their supporters.” The document continues to promote democracy as one way of creating that kind of global environment.

Defeating Terrorism In The Long Run Requires That We Diminish The Underlying Conditions In Society That Terrorists Seek To Exploit By Advancing Effective Democracy:

Ø Terrorists Exploit Political Alienation. Democracy gives people an ownership stake in society.

Ø Terrorists Exploit Grievances To Blame Others. Democracy offers the rule of law, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and the habits of advancing interests through compromise.

Ø Terrorists Exploit Misinformation And Conspiracy Theories. Democracy offers freedom of speech, independent media, and a marketplace of ideas to expose and discredit falsehoods.

Ø Terrorists Exploit An Ideology That Justifies Murder. Democracy offers a respect for human dignity and rejects the targeting of innocents.

Francis Fukuyama has made the point that the adoption of liberal democratic principles matters more than the type of government adopting them. His point is underscored by the fact that each of the above bullets highlights some of those principles. The document also provides some short- and long-term strategies. I was most interested in the long-term strategies for institutionalizing success:

During The Cold War We Created An Array Of Domestic And International Institutions As Well As Enduring Partnerships To Defeat The Threat Of Communism – Today We Require Similar Structures To Win The Long War On Terror. We are transforming our domestic and international institutions and enduring partnerships to carry forward the long term fight against terror and to help ensure our ultimate success.

Ø Establishing International Standards Of Accountability: We are collaborating with our partners to update and tailor international obligations and standards of accountability to meet the evolving threat of terrorism. Efforts already underway in this regard include consultations with the G-8 and others to develop landmark counterterrorism standards and best practices.

Ø Strengthening Our Coalitions And Partnerships To Maintain A United Front Against Terror. We are building the capacity of foreign partners in all areas of counterterrorism activities. Through the provision of training, equipment, and other assistance, the United States will enhance the ability of partners across the globe to attack and defeat terrorists, deny them funding and freedom of movement, secure their critical infrastructures, and deny terrorists access to WMD and safehavens.

Ø Enhancing Our Counterterrorism Architecture And Interagency Collaboration By Setting Clear National Priorities And Transforming The Government To Achieve Those Priorities. This includes the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, and the National Counterterrorism Center. Additionally, our military is expanding Special Operations Forces, increasing the capabilities of the general purpose force to conduct irregular warfare in an asymmetric environment, and initiating the largest rearrangement of its force posture since World War II. The State Department is repositioning its domestic and overseas staff to better promote America’s policies and interests and have more direct local and regional impact.

Ø Fostering Intellectual And Human Capital By Creating An Expert Community Of Counterterrorism Professionals And Developing A Domestic Culture Of Preparedness. This Culture of Preparedness rests on a shared acknowledgement of the certainty of future catastrophes; the importance of initiative and accountability at all levels of society; the role of citizen and community preparedness; and a delineation of the roles of each level of government and the private sector in creating a prepared nation.

What struck me most about this long-term strategy is how closely it parallels what I have been promoting for our Development-in-a-Box™ approach. First, it talks about establishing international standards and best practices, which is exactly what makes Development-in-a-Box different than past approaches. Second, the strategy talks about needing a new architecture for dealing with this problem. Enterra Solutions® is working with a number of groups to help them develop a Resilient Technology Architecture to help meet this need. Finally, the strategy stresses the need for establishing a community of practice, an approach I have indicated is critical in the development world as well. The President is simply encouraging the establishment of one of many such communities that need to be created. We all know that drafting a strategy doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be implemented properly. The basic approach for long-term success is promising. Let’s hope it survives a change in administrations.

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