It is a powerful indictment of the sorry state of the Nation’s organizing for and conduct of information operations and other forms of political warfare that this role has been conferred by statute upon the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. But, until the law is changed, that position is the focal point for all such U.S. government efforts – including the authorization of those that might be carried out by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The effect of denying Senate confirmation to Jim Glassman – an accomplished man of ideas with considerable experience with journalism, broadcasting and public policy – is appalling. It allows caretaker State Department bureaucrats to preside over, and generally to impede, the execution of all government information campaigns in the so-called War on Terror. We are engaging in unilateral disarmament on what is, arguably, one of the most critical battlefields of all: the need to counter today’s totalitarian ideology, Islamofascism, emanating from Iran, Saudi Arabia and their respective proxies elsewhere around the world.
Readers of this column know that matters on this score are made much worse by the success of influence operations being waged against our government at the hands of admirers of Islamism. For example, the last Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Karen Hughes, described a beneficiary of a $20 million grant to Georgetown University from a Saudi prince, Professor John Esposito, as her “guru” and paid court to a Muslim Brotherhood front organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
A similar penetration of the Defense Department by that same Brotherhood front seemingly will result Wednesday in the cashiering of the Pentagon’s preeminent expert on Islamofascism, Stephen Coughlin, at the hands of another ISNA admirer still serving in the office of Deputy Secretary Gordon England, Hisham Islam.
Under the circumstances, what is probably needed is a complete re-do – the reconstitution of a separate agency charged with devising and executing America’s international information operations. Dismantling the entity that performed this function during the Cold War, the U.S. Information Agency, was just one of the precipitous and strategically portentous mistakes made in the heady days following the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is among those on Capitol Hill said to be currently considering legislation to rectify this error.
In the meantime, we need to make the best of the present, substantially dysfunctional and inadequately transparent arrangement. That will more likely be achieved by the confirmation without further delay of Jim Glassman than by allowing the clock to run out on the remaining months of the Bush Administration without strong leadership in the key State Department post. The latter course would be an invitation to further incoherence and potentially devastating setbacks in the War of Ideas for the duration of the Bush presidency, and a lost opportunity to shape the next president’s approach to waging that war.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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