Part I: Obama Versus McCain on National Security, Obama’s Position

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I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

Hindsight, and you don’t know if the plan would have worked. There are many such cases in US history where you can easily point out, in hindsight, and without knowledge of the quality of the intelligence at the time, what should have been done. It doesn’t make you right or make us believe you would have made better choices.

And Pakistan needs more than F-16s to combat extremism. As the Pakistani government increases investment in secular education to counter radical madrasas, my Administration will increase America’s commitment. We must help Pakistan invest in the provinces along the Afghan border, so that the extremists’ program of hate is met with one of hope. And we must not turn a blind eye to elections that are neither free nor fair – our goal is not simply an ally in Pakistan, it is a democratic ally.

That should go over big with their arch enemy India.

Beyond Pakistan, there is a core of terrorists – probably in the tens of thousands – who have made their choice to attack America. So the second step in my strategy will be to build our capacity and our partnerships to track down, capture or kill terrorists around the world, and to deny them the world’s most dangerous weapons.

I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to America. This requires a broader set of capabilities, as outlined in the Army and Marine Corps’s new counter-insurgency manual. I will ensure that our military becomes more stealth, agile, and lethal in its ability to capture or kill terrorists. We need to recruit, train, and equip our armed forces to better target terrorists, and to help foreign militaries to do the same. This must include a program to bolster our ability to speak different languages, understand different cultures, and coordinate complex missions with our civilian agencies.

Right on, Senator. Last I saw, the Bush administration had opened up a Kool-Aid stand for terrorists and offered them free weapons of mass destruction with each cup. And I think the experts in our military will greatly appreciate your help training the troops, they could use a day or two off.

To succeed, we must improve our civilian capacity. The finest military in the world is adapting to the challenges of the 21st century. But it cannot counter insurgent and terrorist threats without civilian counterparts who can carry out economic and political reconstruction missions – sometimes in dangerous places. As President, I will strengthen these civilian capacities, recruiting our best and brightest to take on this challenge. I will increase both the numbers and capabilities of our diplomats, development experts, and other civilians who can work alongside our military. We can’t just say there is no military solution to these problems. We need to integrate all aspects of American might.

And how will you do that Senator? Will you be joining the Coast Guard? Won’t that interfere with your duties as President?

One component of this integrated approach will be new Mobile Development Teams that bring together personnel from the State Department, the Pentagon, and USAID. These teams will work with civil society and local governments to make an immediate impact in peoples’ lives, and to turn the tide against extremism. Where people are most vulnerable, where the light of hope has grown dark, and where we are in a position to make a real difference in advancing security and opportunity – that is where these teams will go.

That is great, because with your lack of a plan for energy independence, we will need some light.

I will also strengthen our intelligence. This is about more than an organizational chart. We need leadership that forces our agencies to share information, and leadership that never – ever – twists the facts to support bad policies. But we must also build our capacity to better collect and analyze information, and to carry out operations to disrupt terrorist plots and break up terrorist networks.

This cannot just be an American mission. Al Qaeda and its allies operate in nearly 100 countries. The United States cannot steal every secret, penetrate every cell, act on every tip, or track down every terrorist – nor should we have to do this alone. This is not just about our security. It is about the common security of all the world.

Right. So.

As President, I will create a Shared Security Partnership Program to forge an international intelligence and law enforcement infrastructure to take down terrorist networks from the remote islands of Indonesia, to the sprawling cities of Africa. This program will provide $5 billion over three years for counter-terrorism cooperation with countries around the world, including information sharing, funding for training, operations, border security, anti-corruption programs, technology, and targeting terrorist financing. And this effort will focus on helping our partners succeed without repressive tactics, because brutality breeds terror, it does not defeat it.

Sounds interesting. How does it differ from what we are spending now and how we are approaching terrorism now? With all due respect, 5 billion bucks is peanuts in this arena.

We must also do more to safeguard the world’s most dangerous weapons. We know al Qaeda seeks a nuclear weapon. We know they would not hesitate to use one. Yet there is still about 50 tons of highly enriched uranium, some of it poorly secured, at civilian nuclear facilities in over forty countries. There are still about 15,000 to 16,00 nuclear weapons and stockpiles of uranium and plutonium scattered across 11 time zones in the former Soviet Union.

That is why I worked in the Senate with Dick Lugar to pass a law that would help the United States and our allies detect and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction.

Has certainly worked so well on the war on drugs.

And that is why, as President, I will lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons and material at vulnerable sites within four years. While we work to secure existing stockpiles, we should also negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material.

Haven’t we been trying to do this for decades?

And I won’t hesitate to use the power of American diplomacy to stop countries from obtaining these weapons or sponsoring terror. The lesson of the Bush years is that not talking does not work. Go down the list of countries we’ve ignored and see how successful that strategy has been. We haven’t talked to Iran, and they continue to build their nuclear program. We haven’t talked to Syria, and they continue support for terror. We tried not talking to North Korea, and they now have enough material for 6 to 8 more nuclear weapons.

Now hold the phone Senator. You say, and we quote, “talking does not work”, but you repeatedly say that you want strong diplomacy. Let’s see, the only other kind of diplomacy we know is at the end of a gun barrel.

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