9/11 Commission Report

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(Host) Commentator Barrie Dunsmore joins us today with his thoughts on the recently released 9/11 Commission Report.

(Dunsmore) The latest terrorist threat to American financial institutions refocuses public attention on the 9/11 Commission report, which in less than two short weeks, had already become the new Bible for politicians and pundits on how to prevent future terrorism. They may not agree with everything in it, but because it is a bipartisan report, and a very good one at that, and because it has quickly achieved broad popular appeal, politicians of all stripes have been tripping over themselves to say that they support the Commission’s findings.

The Senate has already convened a rare summer committee hearing to begin to look at legislation. And the president has talked of things that could be implemented by executive order. So far, most of the debate has been about proposed the creation of a new National Intelligence Director and a large counter-terrorism agency to work out of the White House. Opponents of those proposals say that simply creates an unneeded new level of bureaucracy and could further politicize intelligence analysis by putting it under the same roof with the president. That debate will continue.

But I believe the commission has made many far more significant recommendations than who sits – in what chair- where. Those proposals are in the final chapter titled “How to do it.” For me, the really important stuff is in the preceding chapter, “What to Do.”

This is the chapter that sets out the need for a grand strategy to deal with the security threats of the 21st century. The commission doesn’t exactly debunk the notion of a “War on Terrorism.” Instead it calls for “More than a War on Terrorism.” Of the 27 recommendations made in this chapter, only one is overtly military. While accepting the notion of military action to kill terrorists in the field as in Afghanistan, the report goes on to say, “Terrorism is a tactic – but the enemy is not just terrorism. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism-especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology”. By defining the threat as an ideological struggle with Islamic extremists, the Commission lays the foundation for a much broader strategy than simply trying to find and eliminate a group of terrorists.

As the report puts it, “…long-term success demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy and homeland defense.”

An integral part of this strategy is multilateralism. Again and again the report emphasizes the need for cooperation, co-ordination, and collaborative action with the nations of the world in this ideological struggle against militant Islam. In my view, what the Commission is clearly telling us, is that if we are going to prevail in this struggle, there must be a grand design similar to that which defined the Cold War. That was a mostly non-military war and it took some 40 years to win.

This is Barrie Dunsmore.

Barrie Dunsmore is a veteran diplomatic and foreign correspondent for ABC News, now living in Charlotte.

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