Americans Complacent, Need to Be On 'War Footing'

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - The success of U.S. counterterrorism efforts has made Americans complacent, according to an expert on Middle East politics. Frank Gaffney, who served in the Reagan Defense Department, said the public must adopt a "war footing" or risk greater vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

Gaffney is encouraged by the success of counterterrorism efforts since the 9/11 attacks. But he believes at least part of the reason America has been spared from terrorism on a smaller scale since 2001 is the terrorists' desire for monumental and lasting damage.

"Terrorists are seeking very spectacular ways of inflicting damage on us," said Gaffney, who is now president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy.

"It would be easy enough to shoot up a mall, or set off a pipe bomb without particular effect other than to arouse the people again to the fact we are at war, which is - not something they necessarily want to do," he continued. "Instead, they are waiting and working toward something that will hurt us profoundly."

Gaffney credits a combination of factors with preventing terrorism on U.S. soil, including an "offensive response" and the breaking down of walls between intelligence-gathering and law enforcement for the absence of additional terror strikes. He also sees the hand of providence at work in protecting America.

But Gaffney also feels that it is imperative for both the public and the U.S. government to adopt deliberate and specific measures to put the country on a proper war footing.

He has outlined 10 steps for U.S. policymakers to properly equip themselves in the "war for the free world." Gaffney, discussed the 10 steps as part of congressional testimony delivered before the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Non-Proliferation on Sept. 7.

Gaffney put a particular emphasis on the need for a greater investment in "the instruments of political warfare, including public diplomacy."

"We have been dramatically under-funding an important area of natural American expertise and capability: multimedia communications aimed at foreign audiences," Gaffney said.

The goal of such communications, Gaffney said, should be to "de-legitimize Islamist extremism in the eyes of Muslims, and especially its potential supporters."

A key component of this strategy includes challenging militants who claim their terrorism is supported by Islamic teachings. This can be done, Gaffney said, by pointing out contradictions between extremist teachings and actual passages in the Koran.

Such "political warfare" is not new to Americans, Gaffney said. But the target of such efforts will have to change.

"The good news is that Americans are among the world's experts at political warfare," he explained. "The bad news is that we mainly use it against each other."

"The strategies and tactics of any hard-fought election campaign are precisely the stuff of applied political warfare," Gaffney said. "The talent, creativity, ingenuity, and, yes, ruthlessness of top-flight political campaign strategists of both parties should be mustered for the purpose of fighting our enemies and helping our friends rather than fighting each other."

Gaffney's security recommendations are modeled after the "playbook" used by his former boss, President Ronald Reagan.

"Reagan showed [that] these techniques work," Gaffney said, "if properly wielded in a sustained and disciplined way."

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