The sneak attacks on civilian transport in London are the latest gruesome instance of despicable al Qaeda terror. Outrage is indeed required. Effective response, however, must go beyond the public general statements of condemnation by Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush and others attending the G-8 Scotland summit.
War strategy must be comprehensive, encompassing politics and public relations. Anglo-American experience provides striking strategic instruction on how to do so with maximum effectiveness. Before the United States entered World War II directly, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill focused on forging close alliance with not only President Franklin D. Roosevelt but also the wider American public. Churchill’s American mother facilitated his understanding of and affection for the United States, but this was no sentimental journey.
During the grimmest days of the war, the British devoted enormous effort to presenting Churchill to America as persuasively as possible. Becoming an expert on FDR the individual was only one component. Churchill was sincere, and the Churchillian cigar, bowler hat and general bulldog demeanor were authentic to the man, not props, but also were publicized with calculated care for strategic purposes.
Winning a total world war required targeted work on different fronts. Churchill the realist declared perceptively that the only thing worse than having allies was not having them. Nothing was left to chance in winning over the still-isolationist Americans in order to pursue the war against Hitler.
For Bush and others attending the G-8 summit, individual declarations of outrage should immediately be combined with public emphasis on collective unity. Franco-American frictions have masked the crucial importance of the NATO alliance in the war against al Qaeda. NATO ally Turkey refused to assist the American invasion of Iraq; much less public is the strength and leadership of the Turkish military in Afghanistan. NATO has supervised Afghanistan operations as well as coordinating air assets over North America after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The attacks of July 7, 2005, in the United Kingdom can result in a similar energized commitment to collective cooperation. Such collaboration could improve sometimes simplistic and clumsy unilateral Bush administration efforts to publicize the truth about al Qaeda to Muslim publics around the globe.
One very specific step toward returning emphasis to collective action would be appointment of a suitably high-profile U.S. ambassador to NATO. One advantage: neo-conservatives do not direct the same sort of hostile fire against NATO that they do against the United Nations as an institution. A younger Donald Rumsfeld got a career boost from service as NATO representative during the Nixon-Ford years.
Bush, with appropriate fanfare, should announce that John Bolton is withdrawing as U.N. ambassador-designate to serve instead as our envoy to NATO. The belligerent Bolton might benefit from field experience outside of Washington, especially dealing with real warriors, and the president would remove at least one of his many current problems with Congress.
(Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College in Wisconsin and author of “After the Cold War” (NYU Press). He can be reached at acyr(at)carthage.edu.)