Byline: Fareed Zakaria
You know that the 9/11 Commission report has had a real impact because Congress has decided to meet in sweltering August to act on its recommendations. In fact, the report is fast achieving Biblical status. Both left and right cite its arguments to vindicate their claims. The Wall Street Journal editorial page believes that it confirms the Bush administration's version of events. Liberal columnists say it amply demonstrates Clinton's strong focus on Al Qaeda. This is in some part because the report is vast and detailed. If you search hard, you will find in it what you want.
But mostly the near-universal approval reflects the report's quality. It is that rare thing in Washington, a genuinely bipartisan product. It is thorough and fair, with a sense of history and of the breadth of its mandate. Because of extraordinary, almost unprecedented access to classified documents, it provides a unique bird's-eye view into decision making at the highest levels of government. It is also well written, rare for work that is the product of a committee. All of this makes for the most important report by an independent commission in decades.
And what does it say? The press has focused on its administrative recommendations: a new intelligence czar, new systems for congressional oversight of intelligence, homeland security and so on. Bureaucratic reforms are important. But all this attention on organization charts misses the big picture. What we need first and foremost is a grand strategy. The absence of such a …