An Open Letter from William J. Bennett
|What is AVOT?
The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman; What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.
TO: Interested Parties
FR: William J. Bennett, Chairman
RE: Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT), a project of EMPOWER.org
March 12, 2002
Throughout the Cold War, many groups and publications were dedicated to building grassroots support and intellectual foundations in order to support the United States against the Soviet Union. These groups worked to detail the extent and consequence of the Soviet Union’s policies (internally and externally) and to defend the West’s, specifically, the United States' principles and actions. Think tanks were formed, centers at colleges and universities were founded, and publications arose and dedicated themselves to these goals.
It took a great deal of intellectual firepower over the course of the forty-year Cold War to help bring about the demise of the Soviet Union and the repudiation of the communist ideology upon which it was built. To maintain citizen support, our current war against terrorism will require nothing less. There will be times, too, where the government will need to hear from outside scholars not just for support but for inspiration and promotion of certain policies.
The terrorist threat posed by radical Islamists and others knows no bounds and is targeted directly at our lives and our institutions. We are a target not because of anything we have done, but because of who we are, what we stand for, what we believe, and what our nation was founded upon: the twin principles of liberty and equality. We, as one scholar pointed out, "are simply in their way," and our enemy will stop at nothing to obliterate us. Unlike the terrorism of the 1970s and 1980s, the new terrorism seeks to eliminate us, not receive political attention, concessions, or help from us. We are their problem, not a part of their solution. This will be a long war.
While support for US policies in the war effort is currently very high, I believe that unless public opinion is reinforced, it may fall and wane over time. It is crucial that we maintain steady support within this nation, calling its citizens to the defense of its highest ideals and virtues. The terrorist threat, unless it is defeated, will not only consign freedom-loving states abroad to unremitting terror, but will bring more terror here at home. And the war cannot be won without firm support from American citizens for the policies our President laid out in his Joint Session Address to Congress and his State of the Union.
The threats we face today are both external and internal: external in that there are groups and states that want to violently attack the United States; internal in that there are ideologues who are attempting to use this opportunity to promulgate their agenda of "blame America first." Both threats come in various guises, but both threats stem from a hatred for the American ideals of freedom and equality or a misunderstanding of those ideals and the implementation of them. Our goals will be aimed at addressing the present threats so as to eradicate future terrorism and ideologies that support it. The central focus of our activity is public opinion.
We must devote attention to the definition and shape of our victory in the present war. In the long run, fortitude or hesitation about our principles will determine victory or defeat. We shall work to fortify public opinion by argument, use of mass communication, and direct mail.
Our committee will model itself on organizations such as the former Committee on the Present Danger and the Committee for a Free World. AVOT will:
- educate the public about the nature and threat of terrorist organizations and states;
- educate the public about the nature and threat of radical Islamism;
- help articulate American ideals in schools and on campuses;
- support democratic patriotism when it is questioned; and
- take to task those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the war we are facing.
Immediate Plan of Action
1. Take a full page advertisement out in the New York Times listing our core principles.
2. Host a roundtable conversation with several scholars on the extent of the terrorist threat, the state of our war, and policy proposals to combat our enemy. From this conversation we will produce a white paper to be made available to the general public and host a press conference with the principal experts to promulgate the white paper and its content.
3. Commission a poll of college students, nationwide, gathering their views on the war and the state of patriotism on our campuses and universities.
4. Begin a series of "teach-ins," or college panels, on various universities, utilizing our Senior Advisors. These teach-ins will take serious arguments for and about the war to college students across the nation, building support at the institutions that have typically been the first to oppose war efforts. Media will be invited and we expect broad coverage of these teach-ins.
5. I, along with the Senior Advisors, will write occasional op-eds in various media outlets and be available for interviews on television and radio.
6. Host a Web-site that will be a one-stop shop for information about the various aspects of our war against terrorism.
AVOT will also host meetings and brain-storming sessions with supporters and ad hoc, off-the-record, briefings with individual experts for our own knowledge base. As much as possible, we will make the information exchanged in these meetings available to the general public, whether it is through a newsletter, an op-ed column, a television appearance, or on our Web-site.
In his September 20th address to the Joint Session of Congress, President Bush said "Our war begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated." This will be a long, difficult fight and it is essential to our military success, as well as to the vindication of our principles, that we maintain our focus and support for this war. AVOT will play a critical role in that effort and, in so doing, call us all to the better angels of our nature. We would appreciate your support.
Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (AVOT):
An Open Letter from William J. Bennett
By William Bennett, Chairman
Posted on the Independent Newswire on 18 March 2002
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