Remember the State Department's undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, Karen Hughes, who seven months ago was charged with improving America's dismal image in the Arab world?
Ms. Hughes has drifted aimlessly in the assignment - as did her predecessors - because America lacks the courage of its convictions.
President Bush stirred the hopes of billions when in his inaugural speech he said America would stand behind any Muslim, Arab, or other who fought for democracy. He called out two heavyweights in the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as allies whose leadership would set the region on a path toward freedom for Arab minds.
If anything, since then the two countries have chained their people further, as America has turned a blind eye to their sham elections, imprisonment of political activists, and increasing of liberties for radical Islamists.
Saudi and Egyptian thought commissars control mosques, schools, universities, arts organizations, censorship bodies, and religious institutes that graduate suicide bombers - and their teachers - such as Cairo's Al Azhar university and theological school and the Imam Mohammad University in Riyadh. Oil-rich Arabs are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into building mosques from Southeast Asia to Africa, and staffing them with fundamentalists.
"This is a long-term endeavor. You can compare it to the Cold War, in the sense that it is an effort that will take years," Ms. Hughes told the Washington Post last week.
She went on to contend that America is in a war of "information" and thus must rely on a "rapid-response" system to correct rumors and erroneous proclamations quickly. True, but a consistent, overarching strategy still is missing.
As Ms. Hughes outlines one part of the problem, does her boss, Secretary of State Rice, in turn fire off cables to King Abdullah or the emir of Qatar asking why they together spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to fund terror networks? Or demand that preachers who call Christians and Jews monkeys and pigs be handed over to authorities at Guantanamo Bay?
She does not. Rather, when the Saudi king and his retinue of royal princes visit America, Mr. Bush hosts a barbecue for them at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. This is still a war of ideas.
During the Cold War, America stood firm for freedom and against an evil empire: communism. Washington waged its fight with a vision and focus - describing the truths of life on the other side of the Iron Curtain to those imprisoned behind it. Millions oppressed by communist governments became loyal to America because America faced down their oppressors.
Are we debunking Muslim fundamentalism as the movement's leaders conceal their failures with anti-American spin? Nope. But that is exactly what Ms. Hughes should do with her billion-dollar public diplomacy budget. Televised debates are a Band-Aid at best.
Why isn't America beaming into Middle Eastern, Central Asian, North African, and Persian Gulf homes more programs on "proper Koranic interpretations" and good, as opposed to evil, religious messages? We have American Muslims, we have radios, we have the press, and we have television networks. Why not make the push?
When President Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" the country had given Eastern Europeans and citizens of the former Soviet Union innumerable chances to learn about American values, and the message had touched hearts and minds. Those living under communism were prepared to break free from their rulers' doctrine. How are we teaching Muslims about tolerant brands of Islam?
If we want ordinary Muslims imprisoned by dark empires to hear us, we must transcend fanaticism with sanity. Islam is a force in the West, too, where it has been "globalized."
Radical Islam - bred by religious institutions out of our control and under theirs - is the new evil empire. In addition to debasing Western values, it is trapping 300 million Arab minds. Meanwhile, corrupt elites maraud and pillage, parking their money in Western banks.
Public diplomacy is an activist strategy intended to encourage American bonding with the Muslim people, and to provide them with education, guidance, and information on the corruptness of their fundamentalist preachers and the criminality of their rulers.
Today, America is waging an epic fight against radical Islam. This is a serious business, not point-scoring time.