Defense

In the wake of the September 11th attacks and the ensuing war on terrorism, it has become clear that the United States is facing a new security threat. The war America is already engaged in will not be fought like the wars of the past. After witnessing the tragic terrorist attacks against the nation, it is now time to coordinate the efforts of federal, state, and local agencies to provide better homeland defense. Tomorrow's attacker is more likely to board a commercial airliner bound for the U.S. with a tourist or student visa - or he may simply walk across our porous southern or northern border carrying a device in his backpack. These issues must be addressed. We are, I believe, in a clash of civilizations. That clash is fought on many fronts-some military, some diplomatic, and still others, ideological. On the military front we have won two significant victories. One was in Afghanistan where we destroyed the Taliban and Al Qaeda's command and control network. The second victory was in Iraq where, by toppling the Sunni dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and creating the embryonic infrastructure of a democracy, we set in a motion a chain of events that could lead to a major strategic advantage for us and for the West. This advantage emanates from the forced political equilibrium that can be brought to the region and Iraq itself now that Saddam has been dispatched. The deep schisms in Islam will force countries in the region to impose this equilibrium. Our continued presence in Iraq as the referee in a civil war inhibits this development. We must take whatever steps are necessary to assure our ability to respond quickly to events in the area as the process of creating this new balance of power goes on. But the quicker that process starts, the better. In his speech to the nation on the war in Iraq, the President said he was establishing a "November benchmark" for the Iraqis to complete the task of controlling all provinces of the country. This should be more than a benchmark. I believe it should be used as the time frame for our disengagement from Iraq. We can maintain a military presence in the area to act as a quick response force with a mission to destroy Al Qaeda elements while simultaneously aiding the new balance of power in the region to develop. I am not alone in my thoughts about what to do in Iraq. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, in a recent interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, concurred. "I think it's clear that the United States has met the obligation that it incurred when it overthrew Saddam Hussein. And that's to try and provide some conditions of security for the Iraqis to determine what kind of country or what kind of society they want in the future. We have met that obligation. That obligation does not need to be extended. And this is really the last chance for them. After that, we need to pursue very narrowly what our strategic interest is. And that's making sure that terrorism doesn't find root in that country."--Former UN Ambassador John Bolton At the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin, "What have you given us?" He replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it." We have purchased an opportunity for Iraq and the entire Middle East with the blood and treasure of America. It was a noble endeavor for which all who served can be immensely proud. It is now time to see if the Iraqis can take advantage of the opportunity and "keep" what has been so dearly purchased.