*by Gordon Adams [firstname.lastname@example.org]
With the election over—and national security figuring so prominently in
the campaigns—the looming question remains: What’s the new national
Iraq is on center stage, with Washington eagerly awaiting the results of
the Baker-Hamilton commission, as an impetus for pulling our national
irons out of the Iraqi fire. Indeed, the election winners must now
propose a rich agenda of options on Iraq, none of which should be: “stay
the (disastrous) current course.” These should include the option to
leave, as gracefully as possible, over the next year, just ahead of
receiving an invitation to do so from whatever government speaks for
Baghdad—once it figures out that the United States is part of the problem.
But while important, the new Congress must promptly make Iraq
yesterday’s issue. Unless lawmakers focus on the broader, long-term
security agenda, we are in for more Iraqs and more terrorists. Due to
the Iraq imbroglio, we have failed to assemble the right mix of
diplomatic, foreign assistance, and military instruments to implement a
Iraq has exposed our excessive reliance on the military for
reconstruction and governance missions, because we don’t have the right
diplomats and managers to do those jobs. It is also time to think
seriously about our military tool, what its role is in meeting broader
goals and whether it really makes any sense to increase the size of the
Army. Once back from Iraq—and they will be—U.S. military forces do not
need to grow, rather they should be restructured, transformed, prepared
for peacekeeping tasks and the small, but nasty job of working against
Note to the Armed Services Committees: beware of what you wish for.
America could be stuck with a larger, significantly more expensive, but
ineffective military and few places to use it. The temptation then to
reach for the military, instead of diplomacy and international
engagement, will be great. We must focus on tomorrow’s need, not the
requirement of rotating forces in a hostile and occupied Iraq—unless, of
course, another Iraq is on the agenda. The American people don’t seem to
If terrorist organizations are the problem—and we should be prepared to
deal with them as a long-term, nasty sideshow—then we need the right mix
of instruments: law enforcement, intelligence cooperation and diplomacy
with both supportive /and/ uncooperative nations (read Syria and Iran),
and even more intensive international financial cooperation. The
military will play only a supporting role.
And while Congress is at it, it must fix the broken budgetary system
over at the Pentagon. Six years of emergency supplemental budget
requests—rushed through the Pentagon and the White House and largely
unexplained, and passed by a Congress eager to demonstrate it “supports
the troops”—has broken the way we budget for defense. Emergency
supplementals, at over $100 billion a year, are lethal to sensible
planning. It’s time to get off the supplemental gravy train, put those
post-Iraq Army “reset” requests through the regular Pentagon budget
system, and find the trade-offs with other requirements.
We have neither a unique talent nor an unblemished record in creating
democracies abroad. That task is long and tough and relies on indigenous
trends and forces—not our money or good will. And even benign U.S.
intervention overseas is viewed with suspicion. What most of the world
seeks are reasonably effective, responsive governments capable of
delivering the goods: security, social aid and an environment hospitable
to economic development. Let’s focus on that objective, and create
coalitions to respond.
And what about hatred itself? Not just hatred of the United States but
the toxic identity conflicts that riddle the globe. “Public diplomacy”
has been dealing with these—trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s
ear in the case of Iraq. How can we, with others, foster dialogue among
people who hate each other for religious or ethnic reasons? The extent
of our government response has been to mouth platitudes about moderates
and radicals within the religions of others.
We must also seriously ask the following questions: What are we doing to
reverse the global trend toward economic inequality and grinding poverty
that provide a seedbed for radicalism and anti-Americanism? How should
we cope with failed states and weak governance around the world—another
source of radicalism and hatred? Do our foreign assistance programs make
sense and what is the State Department doing to address our 15 baskets
of foreign assistance, lacking an integrated structure?
Before the gap between the rich and the poor becomes a /casus belli/
around the world, we must devise an integrated, international strategy
on trade and economic assistance. Further, we can’t send the Marines to
shore up every failing government, as the current crisis in Somalia
suggests. And why must it be “we” who do the sending? Our friends and
allies have the same stake in stability and good governance in the
Middle East and elsewhere.
Then there is energy. Massive majorities of Americans believe the
looming energy crisis and the attendant danger of global warming are the
most critical long-term national security issues we face. ANWAR drilling
is not the answer. Probing and educative hearings and legislative
proposals are urgently needed to confront these long-term threats to our
security and address: how to lessen dependence on oil, diversify energy
sources and protect the environment.
There is real risk that the next two years will be spent in partisan
bickering and positioning. Before long, we will be treated to a dispute
on Iraq about whether new policy options “support the troops,” “finish
the job,” or will ensure “victory” in Iraq.
It is a silly, useless, rhetorical debate that does not move policy or
the nation forward. The broader national security agenda could get lost
in the renewed cycle of “spin.” If it does we should expect years of
global mistrust, terror, and conflict—at great price to our national
Gordon Adams is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for
Scholars, where he is writing a book on national security resource
planning. From 1993 to 1997, he was the senior White House budget
official for national security.