American opinion in line with Obama administration message on bin Laden

A fresh Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll shows that while Americans feel really good about the demise of Osama bin Laden, few think we’re home free when it comes to the threat of terrorism. Seven in ten believe the world is more secure, but a scant five percent think that terrorism is no longer a danger. And that mirrors what the Obama Administration is saying.

Both the President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after expressing prayers for the families of the victims of 9/11 and praise for the courage of our military, intelligence experts and diplomatic officials on the front lines, warn that the death of Bin Laden doesn’t end the fight against Al Qaeda. Making her first public statement at the State Department yesterday, Clinton looked tired but together. She was strong but very measured in predicting the future.

The message to those who would do harm around the world: “you can’t wait us out; you can’t defeat us.” Clinton restated that the administration. As if speaking to reassure those people reflected in the Post/Pew poll, she said, “The fight continues, and we will never waver…..This is America. We rise to the challenge, we persevere and we get the job done.”

In making her public statement yesterday, Clinton took no questions. But afterwards, speaking informally with a small group of editorialists from across the country, she said, “Our goal is to shape the meaning and create the message.” They’re doing a good job at that.

She restated United States commitment to a “partnership” with Pakistan. As if to underline one of the reasons for that partnership, she reminded us that bin Laden had ordered the killing of many Pakistani men, women and children. Obviously, we still need the Pakistanis, however duplicitous and undependable, in meeting the challenge in Afghanistan, but Clinton wouldn’t be drawn into criticism of them. She avoided the concerns about Pakistani duplicity raised, for example, in Foreign Policy about “the Pakistani government’s web of deceit.”

A corollary message has to do with money. As the strategy in Afghanistan shifts from military to foreign aid as a tool for strengthening international security, we have to support the effort. The State Department budget has been cut by $8 billion, which otherwise would go for diplomatic and development work, conflict prevention and resolution, improving health and hunger and supporting American businesses in far-flung areas of the world. Economic development is an important arrow in the quiver of tools to fight terrorism.

Foreign aid as a concept gets little support among the American people. If asked about how much of the federal budget goes for foreign aid, a majority assume about 20-25 percent. Asked how much they think it should get, they say, oh, around 10 percent. In fact, it get just one percent of the federal budget.

If, indeed, people around the world look to America for its values and strength, then we need to view these kinds of diplomatic, economic and health initiatives as enduring necessities in the ongoing fight against terrorism.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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