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Homeland Security

19 October 2005

War on Terrorism Involves Battle of Ideas, Arms, Hadley Says

Freedom, democracy must counter terrorists' grim vision

By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- From the beginning, the War on Terror has been both a battle of arms and a battle of ideas for the United States, its allies and friends, says President Bush's national security advisor.

"In the short run, we must use our military forces and other instruments of national power to fight the terrorists, deny them safe haven, and cut off their sources of support," National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations October 18 in New York.

However, he acknowledged that in the longer term "we must win the battle of ideas" between their "grim totalitarian vision" versus the free world's "positive vision of freedom and democracy."

At the core of this battle, he said, is the need to encourage Islamic moderates to dispute the distorted vision of Islam advanced by the terrorists.

"A struggle is under way for the soul of Islam -- an ideological struggle for the support and loyalty of the Muslim world.  Winning this struggle will require a direct challenge to the extremist voices within Islam," Hadley said.

Some Muslim clerics and legal scholars in the United States and elsewhere already have begun condemning terrorism. And the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world has become increasingly outraged by the murders of innocent people in London, Madrid, Bali, Beslan, Istanbul and Morocco, weakening support for the global extremist movement, he said.

Hadley also said that the world has seen the terrorists’ vision of governance played out in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, which "imposed an artificial conformity that eliminated individual freedom, enslaved women, destroyed the nation's cultural history, and ruled by terror."

The antidote, he says, is democracy, justice and the freedom agenda.

"This agenda offers empowerment as an alternative to enslavement," he said.

Hadley likened the ideological struggle to the struggles of the 20th century against earlier totalitarian visions – fascism, Nazism and communism in Europe.

"Those ideologies similarly relied on terror to advance their twisted visions and to control whole populations.  They, too, found fertile soil among people who were powerless, either as victims of corrupt dictatorships, or the multiple devastations of world wars and economic depravation," he said.

Freedom and democracy proved to be a stronger force then and they will now, he said.

"When the captives of these false visions had the opportunity to choose freely, they chose freedom.  And so it will be as we confront the ideology of the 21st century terrorists."

But Hadley cautioned that freedom, justice and democracy cannot be imposed from the outside, it has to be chosen.

"A people must find their own freedom -- and often they must fight for it.  When they do, the result will reflect their own history, culture and national experience," he said.

The full text of Hadley's remarks before the Council on Foreign Relations is available on the White House Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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