Monday, December 17, 2007
At the end of last week, Ramesh Ponnuru posed this question:
I understand that Giuliani is a smart, tough, competent, and accomplished executive, and that he is hostile to terrorists. What I don't get is why that record and those traits, separately or together, put him head and shoulders above the other candidates as a potential commander-in-chief and scourge of terrorists. I don't see why he's uniquely qualified to be Secretary of Defense or State, let alone president. And when people have tried to make the case for Giuliani in these terms, it has always seemed to me mystical or childish. But maybe you can make that case.
Let me respond to that challenge with a story from the news columns:
WASHINGTON — A federal agency that disburses billions of dollars in humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and pro-democracy programs every year, has inadvertently funneled American taxpayer funds to individuals and entities with "terrorist affiliations" and lacks the safeguards to prevent such incidents from recurring, an internal audit has revealed.
The audit was triggered this spring, after gun battles at Islamic University in Gaza pitted Fatah forces, loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, against their rival, Hamas, which controls the university and has been designated a terrorist group by the United States. After the shooting stopped, Fatah displayed large caches of weapons recovered from inside the university, and the Washington Times reported the school had received more than $140,000 in USAID funding.
"In the basement of Gaza Islamic University, a U.S.-funded institution," said Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who sits on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and requested the audit, "Palestinian police found several Iranian agents and an Iranian general teaching the students in the U.S.-funded chemistry lab how to make suicide bombs."
I'll agree with Ramesh that all the front-running Republican candidates express fierce hostility to terrorism. But as the Gaza Islamic University story shows, self-expression is not enough.
Here's what seems to have happened: Under federal law, USAID is supposed to certify that funds-receiving institutions are untainted by terrorism. Gaza Islamic University failed to obtain that certification. But USAID administrators were so eager to deliver aid to Palestinian institutions that they overlooked the failure - and so provided the money anyway.
It's important to understand that this decision by USAID's administrators was almost certainly taken entirely without the knowledge of their higher-ups. Like USAID, many branches of the US government have their own priorities - and when those priorities conflict, fighting terrorism does not always take first place.
Gaza Islamic University is just one small case study. The US relationship with Saudi Arabia and with Pakistan are two more. In both cases, fighting terrorism is a priority - but never the priority.
If a president is to be an effective leader against terrorism, he (or she) must do more than express that hostility Ramesh talks about.
(1) He (or she) must decide that fighting terrorism really is his or her top foreign-policy priority - even when it conflicts with other things the government wants to do.
(2) He (or she) must appoint (and support) people who will enforce that decision on the bureaucracy.
(3) He (or she) must institute mechanisms to ascertain and confirm that the bureaucracy is following his decision.
(4) He (or she) must hold government accountable when it fails to follow.
Sounds easy, right? But incredibly difficult to do. The internal bureaucratic obstacles to effective war-fighting are severe, and they have repeatedly defeated President Bush.
There are bureaucracies that will say, yes we must fight terror - but of course we must also support and sustain our allies in Saudi Arabia.
There are secret bureaucracies that insist that unless you follow exactly our advice, we will leak against you and inflict horrible political damage.
There are bureaucracies that will say, right behind you Mr. President, but of course we must also consider important oil leasing contracts.
And there are bureaucracies that say, certainly, certainly - but we must engage the states that support terror, not confront them.
It will take more than declared "hostility" to terror to manage such bureaucracies effectively. It will take skill and cunning in the management of refractory government agencies. There is only one candidate in this race who has demonstrated that kind of skill, and it's Rudy Giuliani. None of the other candidates, Republican or Democrat, ever have.
That's why so many think of us believe that Rudy is the best choice on foreign affairs. It's not even a little bit mystical. It is a matter of public record and proven fact.
12/17 07:32 AM