An End to Evil
How to Win the War on Terror
About This Event

Since the fall of Baghdad, both supporters and opponents of the George W. Bush administration have asked what should and could come next in the terror war. In An End to Evil (Random House, December 2003), AEI fellows David Frum and Richard Perle lay out a plan for victory in the war on terror that includes reinvigorating homeland security with a new security agency, better border controls, and national identity cards; overthrowing terror-supporting regimes; waging a global campaign against the terrorist ideology by promoting democracy, open trade, and the rights of Muslim women; and transforming the U.S. government to ensure that all its agencies and parts dedicate themselves to fighting and defeating terror.

11:45 a.m.

David Frum, AEI

Richard Perle, AEI

2:00 p.m.


Event Summary

January 2004
An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror

Since the fall of Baghdad, both supporters and opponents of the Bush administration have asked what should and could come next in the terror war. In An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror (Random House, December 2003), AEI fellows David Frum and Richard Perle lay out a plan for victory in the war on terror that includes reinvigorating homeland security with a new security agency, better border controls, and national identity cards; overthrowing terror-supporting regimes; waging a global campaign against the terrorist ideology by promoting democracy, open trade, and the rights of Muslim women; and transforming the U.S. government to ensure that all its agencies and parts dedicate themselves to fighting and defeating terror.

David Frum

We regard the evil of terrorism as a challenge to this generation in a way that fascism and communism confronted past generations.   We are no more tolerant of simply coping with terrorism than was the last generation with the dangers it faced; rather, our generation bears the same responsibility to its posterity to leave behind a safer world and triumph over the evil that has beset it.

Throughout the war on terror, there have been sudden pulses of visible activity.  We believe that the administration and the nation are preparing for another pulse of activity, and the object of this book was to lay out a blueprint for action of what should be done in the next pulse.  We aimed to both make suggestions and summon the nation to rededicate itself to this struggle.  There was a moment when we sat down to work when it seemed as if the energy for the struggle was faltering a bit.  It felt like the critical moment in the American Revolution when it seemed that many of the summer soldiers were in danger of going home, and we wrote this book to re-summon them.

It is worth pointing out, since this is an election year, that in every one of America's wars, there have been political leaders who sought to achieve power by opposing a war that the nation had already begun. Throughout American history, the party in opposition to the war has never won an election.  They have always lost, and often lost badly.  Even in the case of the most unpopular war in American history, the War of 1812, which nearly triggered a civil war, the party that sought to stop the war in the next election was not only defeated, but obliterated.

It is commonplace in the coverage of these discussions to divide the people who talk about the war into two main factions: the hard-liners, sometimes referred to as neoconservatives, and the soft-liners.  The epithet consistently applied to the hard-liners is that they are ideological, while the soft-liners are, of course, pragmatic and realistic.  In our view, those people who are fooled again and again in the same way do not deserve to be called pragmatic or realistic.  Because of their own personal convictions about the way things ought to be, "soft-liners" attempt to impose their wishes on a world that has a very different reality.  We believe that those people who believe in learning from experience, take the enemy's hostility seriously, and are unwilling to settle for less than success deserve to be labeled realistic and pragmatic.   Therefore, we look forward to future news stories that begin "in another struggle in Washington, pragmatic, realistic hard-liners contested the issue with those ideological soft-liners."

The book is divided into four sections, each of them filled with proposals.  They concern what must be done to win the war at home, what must be done to take the fight to our enemies abroad, what must be done in the realm of ideas, and how we should reform our institutions to prepare for the task at hand.  At home we are very concerned that security measures really bring security. We are, of course, concerned with liberty as well; that is, after all, what security is intended to secure. One thing we must realize, however, is that Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is an imported threat.  Even when terrorist organizations put down roots here, their funding comes from abroad, and something must be done about that.  We propose a national identity card as a way of making sure that individuals who enter the country under certain terms and conditions stay for the time that they are have agreed to stay and do the things that they promised to do before their visa expires. If there are individuals overstaying their welcome, there must be a mechanism to rectify that.  At a time when the nation is reforming its immigration rules in such a way as to deal with the problem of 7-10 million people being inside the country who do not have the right to be here, we believe that this is an essential part of it.

There are also an increasing number of schools in the United States that teach certain ideologies.  Under present law, you are entitled to run a school that practices segregation, but you will neither receive federal money nor have tax-deductible operations. You are not treated as a charity that benefits from the special considerations and exemptions that apply to charities.  The same status should apply to schools that teach incitement and hatred of others on religious grounds; they should be treated no differently than schools that teach hatred on racial grounds. They can stay in business, but they should have to pay property taxes and should be forbidden from issuing tax receipts.

With regard to the realm of ideas, we need to understand that this war on terror is a big war, and not a bandit hunt.  Osama bin Laden is not a Pancho Villa character that we're chasing through the rocks in Afghanistan, and once we catch up with him and his gang of desperadoes, the war will not be over.  It is a giant ideological struggle, and there are a lot of things that the United States needs to do to win that war. We need to clearly state the values we are fighting against and the values we are fighting for.  Free trade agreements to promote higher levels of integration and private enterprise are extremely important. The Middle East is isolated economically from the rest of the world; although they export raw materials, Middle Eastern nations have a very small private sector, meaning that there are very few individuals who are brought into contact with the external world.  This fosters suspicion and mistrust of the outside world.

Something also must be said about the status of Muslim women. It's often said that free elections in many of the oppressive Middle Eastern countries would bring an Islamic extremist to power.  I think the unstated assumption in that claim is that these elections would be conducted on a male-only franchise. One of the first things the United States occupation forces did after World War Two was insist on giving women the vote.  Women were granted the right to vote in France in 1944, in Italy in 1945, and in Japan in 1947 not because of feminist ideology, but because the occupying authorities knew that to make those countries more stable and free of ideological extremism, there needed to be the widest possible representation in free elections.  The same principle holds true in the Middle East: those groups that will suffer the most from an extremist government must be given a voice in the matter.

Richard Perle

With regard to reforming the institutions of government, I believe that it is very obvious that most of the institutions that are crucial to fighting the war on terrorism were not built for that purpose.   They were built for other purposes and over the last half-century have been optimized to deal with the threat from the Soviet Union.  All plans, from intelligence to diplomacy to armed conflict, were centered on Europe and based on a combination of heavy conventional forces and nuclear weapons in an effort to confront the largest and most significant threat.  We no longer face the same threat, and our institutions are therefore not optimized or effective in dealing with this new and very different threat. Very broad reform is necessary.  The Defense Department is one place where reform has begun under Secretary Rumsfeld, and after the success of the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, resistance to his proposed changes is fading.  We need to be prepared to go where the threat arises and may not have three or six or nine months to prepare for it, so we need a defense establishment that is far more agile.  We must also exploit advances in tactical and information technology to enable greater levels of precision and intelligence.

Likewise, our intelligence establishment was designed to tell us what the Soviets were doing in everything from their political operations abroad to their scientific and technological advances.  As a result, we did not become very competent at understanding what was going on in the Middle East.  We failed miserably to anticipate the inevitable consequences of the massive support for extremist movements around the world. We barely noticed that the Saudis were investing tens of billions of dollars in institutions that were teaching jihad.  This broad trend was largely missed by our intelligence establishment. The focus now is on how we failed to predict September 11, but that seems to miss the larger question of how it was that we failed to adequately understand what it meant that children in schools in Pakistan and in mosques in Liverpool were being taught that their duty in life was to join a holy war to defeat western civilization.

The Department of State, in its best days, was skilled at managing the relationship between governments, always with a view toward improving those relations.  These duties involve the ability to compromise and accommodate.  Now we are dealing with states where there is no possibility of real dialogue, as was the case with the Taliban in Afghanistan, or, in my opinion, with the mullahs in Iran.  Needless to say, when it comes to dealing with the terrorists themselves, the relevance of the diplomatic trade is marginal at best.  We need significant reform of our diplomatic instruments.

The UN was created after World War Two in the aftermath of an invasion across national borders.  The purpose of the UN, therefore, was to make sure that the next time an army rolled across a national border there would be a collective response.  That is not the threat we face today.  Today's threat derives from people acquiring weapons and planning and plotting to execute terrorist attacks on the United States, and the UN is not equipped to deal with that.  In fact, the UN has had difficulty defining terrorism in a way that would make it as illegal as an invasion across national borders. For this reason there is no clear UN sanction for preemptive action to forestall a terrorist attack even though September 11 proved that it is possible to wait too long before responding to a visible threat.  Unless the UN is reoriented and reformed to comprehend and appreciate the necessity of acting decisively, we are going to find ourselves in difficulty with the United Nations.

The period of the Cold War was characterized by flourishing alliances in NATO.  Our NATO allies often deferred to us because we were fundamental to their security.  We are not so fundamental to their security today, and some of our allies are less willing to defer to the United States.  While it is understandable that they do not feel as threatened as we do, it is time that we start to look at countries that have been our allies in a more detached and objective way.  Some of them we can work with, and some we must be critical of, as is the case with the Saudis.  We continue to talk about Saudi Arabia as an ally, and yet they funnel huge amounts of money to extremist institutions.  I have enormous admiration for the people of France and for some of its governments, but not for the government of President Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, which I believe is foolishly trying to use opposition to the United States as a galvanizing force in the construction of the EU.  We ought to develop strategies to resist it, one of which may involve asking our friends in Europe to choose a vision of the future relationship with the United States.

With respect to the places abroad where we have serious and continuing problems that relate directly to the war on terror, Iran seems to be the most obvious.  The "terror masters" in Iran continue a program in which innocent civilians are the targets of their activities. They also continue to pursue nuclear weapons, and while they now say that they will accept international safeguards, we have every reason to mistrust those promises.  The reigning government is unpopular amongst Iranians, particularly the younger generation who look to America with admiration.  We should be supporting these individuals and encouraging them to change the miserable regime.

North Korea is the third state in the Axis of Evil, and it is a country that has indicated that it wants to continue building nuclear weapons.  We have every reason to believe that once they achieve a production line for such weapons, they will want to sell them abroad.  If we have learned anything about the terrorist threat, it is that there are people who would detonate a nuclear weapon in a populated U.S. city without remorse.  That is why it is absolutely vital that we keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of people who would use them.  We hope that other nations can convince the North Koreans to abandon these activities, but if that does not work we recommend an embargo that would seal their ability to export any weapons.  If that proves ineffective, I do not see how we can rule out the use of force to deprive them of the nuclear weapon that may one day be detonated on our territory.

AEI research assistant Andrew Kelly prepared this summary.

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  • David Frum is the author of six books, most recently, Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again (Doubleday, 2007). While at AEI, he studied recent political, generational, and demographic trends. In 2007, the British newspaper Daily Telegraph named him one of America's fifty most influential conservatives. Mr. Frum is a regular commentator on public radio's Marketplace and a columnist for The Week and Canada's National Post.
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