A Strategic Fifth Column by Gerald L. Campbell Senior Advisor to the DirectorUnited States Information Agency, 1985-1990 Washington Times (July 7, 2003)John Quincy Adams wrote that America's destiny w...
A Strategic Fifth Column by Gerald L. Campbell Senior Advisor to the Director United States Information Agency, 1985-1990 Washington Times (July 7, 2003)
John Quincy Adams wrote that America's destiny was to be the "beacon on the summit of the mountain, to which all the inhabitants of the earth may turn their eyes for a genial and saving light - a light of admonition to the rulers of men, and a light of salvation and redemption to the oppressed."
New significance has been given those words by the splendid military tactics that obliterated the Taliban, seriously degraded al Quaeda, and decapitated Saddam's regime. To the oppressor, an ultimate warning has been issued. To the oppressed, history has given birth to a new springtime of hope.
Unlike anything that has gone before, America's military power has demonstrated a remarkable ability to discriminate between the tyrant and the innocent. The Goddess of Justice smiles more favorably upon the oppressed. The long-suffering dream emblazoned in the hearts of our common humanity - a dream for individual dignity, human solidarity, and freedom - stands poised to blossom anew as the age-old sanctuary for despots stands more naked and vulnerable than ever.
But, to fully seize the moment, we must do more than fight a tactical war against terrorists, and their networks and state sponsors. We must also take the strategic offensive. We must summon with renewed vigor our moral resources and reaffirm our unique position in world history. America must reach out to the 'hearts and minds' of people around the world and transform this latest phase of the war against terrorism into a struggle for the freedom and dignity of man. Why is this so?
The tactics of the terrorists are clear. They want to damage our economic infrastructure and threaten the lives of innocent people with weapons of mass destruction. Overseas, they seek to fracture alliances and turn cultures and religions against us by marketing their ruthless nihilism as an inevitable 'clash of civilizations.'
But strategically their aim runs much deeper. It is to spread fear and destroy freedom. They know that fear will subvert our freedoms and force us to disengage from the rest of the world. And so, this contest is essentially about the future of freedom.
But therein lies our enemy's Achilles heel. For the best antidote to fear is freedom itself. And while terrorists must fight skulking in the shadows, America can struggle openly with words and deeds that truly resonate with the freedom and dignity of man, regardless of nationality, culture, or religion.
America has an intrinsic bond with all humanity and the transcendent cornerstone of that bond is freedom. Freedom, so regarded, is not a mere ideal or option contingent upon political consensus. It is not a commodity selfishly deduced from an utilitarian or hedonistic urge. Nor is it the product of certain cultures or religions. Freedom is existentially rooted in the human person and from that source emanates a purposeful dynamism that strives to give substance to history itself. And this common birthright has particular significance today.
For some time, international politics has been undergoing an amazing metamorphosis brought on by two historic developments. First, the global communications revolution has democratized the nature of political power on a global scale. Second, the center of gravity in international politics is moving away from the traditional elites of state-to-state relations to the existential and democratic urges of peoples and causes.
Increasingly, world public opinion is becoming a potent force capable of decisive influence over the policies and conduct of states, no matter how dictatorial or how free. The management of state-to-state relations, even though necessary, is no longer a sufficient mechanism to influence the dynamics of international politics, as the collapse of the Soviet Union and our recent experience with Turkey demonstrate. To compete in the global marketplace of ideas, we must reconstitute and reinvigorate our public diplomacy apparatus and stand solidly aligned with truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom.
Given this challenge, the issue before us is clear. The nihilistic impulse of terrorism is not on trial. It offers only hatred and defends nothing. Freedom itself is not on trial. Its promise is intertwined in the very fabric of human existence. What is on trial is the authenticity of America's commitment to human freedom. And while we must not go abroad "seeking dragons to destroy," as Adams cautioned, we must use the power of example to exalt peoples everywhere to move towards a new world order, an order infused with the spirit of the inalienable rights of man and the freedom of the individual. Without authenticity in this effort, battles may be won, but the ultimate contest will be lost.
So, the task ahead is not image building. Image building is unsubstantial and affronts personal dignity. Nor is the task essentially an articulation and defense of US policies. Gains made for such aims can only be superficial and short-lived. The only way to win this global contest is to build authentic relationships with peoples everywhere in their struggle to realize freedom.
To that end, America has at its disposal a strategic fifth column positioned around the world. This fifth column is made up of freedom-loving individuals who, while unorganized and undisciplined, are waiting patiently for the trumpets to call. They man their posts in every hovel, crowded apartment, or house, in every school, workplace, or center of worship, in every rural region, town, or city in every country and hemisphere of the world.
If America renews her sacred commitment to those individuals yearning for freedom, and if it keeps faith with the revolutionary potential inherent in that yearning, this fifth column - backed up by America's economic, military, and diplomatic determination - will unleash democratic forces and processes in countries scattered about the globe that will be irresistible. And sooner than we think, the oppressors, one by one, will be vanquished.
Gerald L. Campbell served as senior staff to Members of the U.S. House of Representatives for nine years. He became Senior Advisor to the Director of the United States Information Agency (USIA) under President Ronald Reagan and President George Bush. Campbell went on to serve the administration of President George Bush and later, he served Texas Governor Bush as Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of Health at the Texas Department of Health in Austin.