The U.S. can and must remain the preeminent global power and force for good. We owe it to ourselves, the international community, and our posterity. In the first half of the last century, we learned that life, liberty and happiness at home cannot be pursued in isolation from developments abroad. More recent history has taught us that we cannot be strong and safe in a world of dramatic inequities, in which the needs of a burgeoning global population are not addressed effectively.
On both the domestic and foreign fronts, our system has lost much of its sense of fair play, so that life is needlessly difficult and less satisfying for Americans and others than it has to be. We need to restore fairness and reasonableness in the way we share our wealth, provide health care, use energy and treat the environment, address developing world poverty, and aim for an Enlightened Security by strengthening our moral foundation. Stepping up to these challenges would benefit all Vermonters, but has not been accomplished because those in power have not advocated for them with sufficient resolve or fresh perspective.
We cannot intervene everywhere, but we must be involved where our vital security, economic, diplomatic, and moral interests are at stake. The U.S. is and must remain a beacon and force for democracy, equality, and progress throughout the world. A U.S. which does not promote its values abroad cannot live up to the ideals and historic mission our Founders set forth over two centuries ago and which remain at the heart of our national life. To those who bemoan the end of the American era - the decline of our influence - we have heard this before and have always emerged stronger. It is a question of will - we can play as important a role as we have in the past if we maintain the courage of our convictions.
Our national security policy must reflect our ideals and all we stand for, even while recognizing that we cannot solve all problems, real-world politics require compromise, and our resources are not limitless. In broadening our engagement with the world community and expanding our role as a force for positive change, the U.S. must lead in promoting international development, including health, nutrition, education, infrastructure, empowerment of women and young people, and civil society. On 9/11, the U.S. experienced firsthand the consequences of religious extremism fanned by social inequities, economic hardships, and misguided political beliefs. It is unreasonable and inequitable for the U.S. contribution to international assistance, as a percentage of GDP, to be among the lowest of developed countries. Having led U.S. military humanitarian/educational medical missions in the Third World, malaria vaccine research, and scientific infrastructure building programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, I know firsthand the positive effects we can have.
Developing new, renewable sources of energy is essential not only for economic and environmental reasons, but for our national and economic security. For far too long the foreign policy of the U.S. and our allies has been unduly influenced by despotic and extremist oil-producing states in the Middle East and South America, and today Russia as well. While transformational changes are required in our own behavior and policies (see Environment and Energy Policy), we cannot allow these countries to have a choke-hold over our national security. Energy security is national security.
We must constructively engage Russia, China, India, Brazil, and other rising powers around the world, and continue to maintain close relationships with NATO and other allies. The fact that we live in a (multilateral) world of numerous powers does not mean America must lose its leading role; it does mean we have to pay growing attention to the interests of others.
We must put an end to the unnecessary tensions in our relations with Russia in recent years. We must work with Russia to ensure it develops along a gradual path of market-oriented democracy, does not revert to former patterns, and becomes fully integrated into the international community. We must press ahead with arms control goals, building on the important new agreement recently concluded by President Obama, and further reducing the thousands of nuclear warheads both sides still possess. While recognizing Russia is understandably seeking to restore its international stature, we must cooperate closely to help moderate its behavior abroad towards Georgia, Ukraine, Iran, and other countries in its geopolitical sphere.
China, with some 20% of the world's population, is rapidly becoming a global leader. It could not be otherwise and should be viewed not as a challenge to American preeminence, but as an opportunity to help shape a new and better global environment for all. Economic competition forces us all to do better. China has legitimate concerns that must be taken into account, even while we ensure our own interests and encourage a slow evolution in political freedoms in that country. Nevertheless, the aspirations of the Taiwanese and Tibetan peoples must be taken into account. The U.S. must press the Chinese to work on political compromise about the Taiwan and Tibet issues, akin to requirements for other international sovereignty conflict points (e.g., Ireland, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Israel, Timor, and the Falkland Islands).
We must also take advantage of the current opportunity to expand our relations with India, the world's largest democracy.
At the crossroads of three continents, the Middle East is home to diverse peoples with ancient and proud cultures in varying stages of political and socioeconomic development, and often in conflict. The primary source of the world's energy resources, it is also the primary locus of the terror-weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-fundamentalist nexus, which in the short term, poses the greatest threat today to regional, international, and American security.
We have important interests and allies in the Middle East. Israel, a vibrant democracy, whose struggle for security and pursuit of happiness is in some ways reminiscent of our own formative years, is and will always remain our foremost ally in the region. We must be unswerving in our commitment to its security. In the pursuit of peace, Israel faces historic and wrenching national decisions for which we must continue to be at its side, providing the encouragement and wherewithal required. The Palestinians and Arab states face similarly fateful decisions. While a peace agreement will clearly require establishment of a Palestinian state (‘Two State Solution’), any true resolution of the conflict cannot be based on one-sided calls for Israeli concessions, but also on Palestinian reunification between the West Bank and Gaza, governmental and security reform, concessions regarding Jerusalem and refugees, and after over sixty years, a clear and unequivocal recognition of Israel's right to live in peace and security. Finally, we must be unflagging in our efforts to promote peace with proactive multilateral engagement in ongoing peace negotiations (see Israel).
The U.S. must resolutely lead the international community in the effort to prevent terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As a military officer, I know that the threat of terrorism is far from over, even if the measures we have taken in recent years have led to a seeming lull. Indeed, the long-term threat may even be growing, as our enemies plan more spectacular and devastating attacks, including the danger of nuclear terrorism. Among others, the Christmas bomb attempt aboard an airliner headed for Detroit should be a re-wake up call.
Iran and North Korea must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons. The world's energy supply, the security of our forces and allies, and the future of the global nonproliferation regime are at stake. A nuclear Iran will lead to a multi-nuclear Middle East, a nightmare scenario. We must pursue the prospects for engagement with Iran and be prepared to make important concessions in order to address its legitimate concerns, but we must be realistic—recent history has shown that it is highly unlikely Iran will agree to forgo its military nuclear capability under any circumstances. Clearly, President Obama's efforts at engagement have failed to halt or slow down Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. Thus, we must be prepared to take the steps necessary to ensure that it does not achieve nuclear weapons.
We should continue multilateral dialogue aiming at cessation of Iran's nuclear weapons program, but time has run out. First, we must enforce current law, particularly the Iran Sanctions Act (Public Law 104-172), which addresses oil company investment in Iran. Second, we must complete and enforce legislation resulting in crippling sanctions in order to conclusively demonstrate to Tehran the cons of its nuclear goals. We should seek multilateral sanctions, ideally approved by the U.N.'s Security Council, our allies, and other important world powers (e.g., China and Russia). But if China and Russia do not cooperate with expeditious Security Council sanctions, we should actively pursue bilateral sanctions with key allies. Sanctions should be as inclusive as possible (as multilateral as possible) in order to prevent their being circumvented by Iran by trading with non-participating partners. In any case, we should proceed with unilateral sanctions in the interim. All means of stopping Iran must be on the table (see Iran).
The exciting domestic developments in Iran ('Green Revolution') recently give rise to new hopes for the emergence of a more moderate regime.
In Iraq we must continue with a prudent draw-down of our forces, with a complete withdrawal, in accordance with the president's plan, the clear near-term goal. Nevertheless, we must not allow self-imposed deadlines to be the sole determining factor and to undermine the relative security and political stability which emerged in Iraq last year, at considerable cost to the United States. Should our military commanders deem it necessary, to prevent a collapse and bloodbath after our withdrawal, we should not rule out an extension of a limited presence.
In Afghanistan, we must make a fundamental decision, whether we are determined to make the effort necessary to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban, or not. Halfhearted efforts lead to the worst of all worlds (see Afghanistan). We must fight to win and provide our military commanders with the necessary resources. This has clearly been the President's plan.
Pakistan, a nuclear armed state possibly on the verge of collapse, presents a particularly severe challenge and must continue to be the focus of special attention. Turkey, a democratic Muslim state with a pivotal role in the region, must remain a close ally with its accession to the European Union assured.
The U.S. must maintain a robust military, capable of meeting all threats to our national security, with the best weapons and training available. We must continue the process of adapting our force structure to the needs of the modern asymmetric threats, while eliminating those unnecessary major weapons programs which reflect the needs of a bygone era.
|© Copyright 2009 Daniel Freilich
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