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Taylor discusses perspectives on war on terrorism

Shelia Flynn and Meryl Guyer | Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Francis Taylor, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, focused on the future when he revisited his past Tuesday by returning to Notre Dame.”It’s always good to be back home,” said Taylor, who received his Air Force commission from the Notre Dame ROTC program in 1970. Taylor’s other positions included director of the Office of Foreign Missions, with the rank of ambassador, and he has served as the U.S. Department of State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism since July 13, 2001.He first spoke yesterday at 12:30 p.m. in DeBartolo, giving a lecture entitled “Perspectives on the Global War on Terrorism,” sponsored by the department of political science and Air Force ROTC.Taylor offered his personal reflections and memories about Sept. 11 and the subsequent beginnings of the war on terror. Throughout the presentation, he focused on the war as a continuing process and said that the battle to end terrorism will most likely be passed down to the next generation.”I don’t think this is something that’s going to be solved within the next 10 years,” Taylor said.He said the war on terror is a changing, prolonged process because victory will not come with actions of the military and law enforcement officials. While he cited major gains, such as the apprehension of more than 4,000 al-Qaeda soldiers, Taylor said that “the threat persists.””No terrorist group has ever been defeated solely by military action,” he said, adding, “al-Qaeda is everywhere.”To cap this widespread dispersion, Taylor said, the radical ideologies and cultural misunderstanding which propel it must be quelled.”The challenge is to get people to understand what is happening under the guise of a religion – a great religion,” he said, explaining that radical Islamic beliefs do not truly reflect the religion’s tenets. The key to meeting this challenge, he said, is cross-cultural education and explanation.”Our public persona, particularly in the Muslim world, is not positive,” Taylor said of the United States. “We are working – trying – to turn that persona around.”He said, for example, that Fulbright scholars are working with Islamic scholars. “It’s that discussion of values that’s really going to change minds.”When questioned about whether strong-fisted actions only provide further anti-Western sentiment, however, Taylor said certain protective or preventative measures are necessary.”Our actions create a reaction, but we can’t be concerned about how they react to it if what we’re doing is the right thing,” he said.Taylor also spoke on more tangible and logistical changes. He said intelligence must be honed and altered, ensuring that the lines of communication are kept open amongst all intelligence agencies and that officers are operating to their full potential.”Our intelligence services have to reflect the societies in which we are asking them to operate,” Taylor said, using the example of a blond, blue-eyed agent trying to blend into the Middle Eastern crowds.And Taylor said that foreign governments will – and already are beginning to – realize that support of terrorist networks can only be detrimental. “Terrorism, as a political tool, helps no government,” Taylor said. “Terrorists know no loyalty.”He continued with this theme during his second lecture, at 5:30 p.m. in DeBartolo, during which he mainly answered questions of ROTC cadets.”We will continue to see pressure put on countries that support terrorism,” Taylor said, also reiterating the continual nature of the war.In addition to informing the cadets of his experience and his perspectives on the current global situation, however, Taylor also offered them advice for their careers in the military. He urged the students to gather as many differing perspectives as possible in order to better understand their role as leaders within the military. “Every one of you should have 100 people [with whom] you correspond regularly who have nothing to do with the military,” Taylor said, parroting the advice of a former superior. “Some people don’t like what you do, and sometimes you have to hear that,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong, but you at least have to know what’s out there. How can you expect to be a competent leader if all you know is the military?”