Jim Webb’s Speech On National Security
[Editor’s Note: This is a summary of Webb’s National Security Address as prepared by his campaign]
National security policy under the Bush-Cheney Administration is in total disarray. There is no end in sight to the conflict in Iraq, the Middle East is out of control, Al Qaeda is stronger today than 5 years ago, and homeland security is being neglected. These difficulties have come about, in large part, because those who are leading us lack the kind of strategic vision that has served our country so well in past eras. George Allen, by blindly following the Bush administration and neglecting his constitutional duty as a Senator, bears great amount of responsibility for the state of American foreign policy.
America has a unique place in the world. It also has unique obligations – and opposition – in the conduct of it’s foreign policy. Terrorism and Iraq were separate issues, until George Bush incorrectly and unwisely linked them; now we need to straighten out the mess in Iraq. The war in Lebanon today is a direct result of the Bush Administration’s complete failure of policy in the Middle East. Issues in the Middle East are closely connected to matters across the globe to which we need strategic solutions. For instance, China has been developing closer ties with the exact Middle Eastern countries that pose challenges to the US. This is a dangerous and neglected alliance that we need to address.
First and foremost is Iraq. Iraq is in a crisis that we must address now in order to make progress on all other security matters. The invasion of Iraq was a double strategic blunder. First, it was a diversion from, not a response to, the war against international terrorism. Second, it has tied down our military in a costly occupation, fighting an insurgency that has strengthened not only the Shia population of Iraq, but also Iran itself. America needs – and deserves – a real debate: about all these issues, and about our strategy in Iraq itself.
The key question facing us is how long we should be expected to occupy Iraq. Someday we are going to leave. Senator Allen seemed rather blasé about this during our recent debate, stating that we have been in Cuba for more than 100 years. But most Americans want us to finish this mission and come home, as long as we do not leave even greater chaos behind. The Administration has never shared with us a specific approach of its own.
For more than two years, Jim Webb has been proposing a formula that might lead to the end of our occupation of Iraq. The first step would be for this Administration to say unequivocally that our country has no desire to occupy Iraq in the long term. It has not done so, and we should be mindful of the many comments by those who pushed so hard for this war, to the effect that we should set up a long-term “MacArthurian Regency” in Baghdad. We should say clearly to the people of Iraq and of the region that we have no plans for a long-term presence in that country. This will take the moral high ground away from the insurgency in the eyes of the Muslim world, and defuse the concern of some Iraqis that we plan to stay for good. This will also put the Iraqi government on notice that it cannot wait forever to stand up before we will stand down. We should not build permanent bases in Iraq. If we’re leaving, we don’t need them, and it sends the wrong message. In the short term, we could move our troops out of the country but within the region – strong possibilities could be Jordan and Kuwait. This would give us the ability to contain the terrorist threat within Iraq without continuing our occupation. From there, we could then bring them home when we’re sure the withdrawal is working. Congress should make sure of this by banning any expenditure for permanent bases in Iraq.
The second step would be for us to begin immediate discussions with those countries that are culturally and historically invested in Iraq, and arguably aligned with us, to become overtly involved in a diplomatic solution, taking responsibility at some level for future stability among Iraq’s competing factions. This is do-able. Quite frankly, it will be more difficult in the wake of our failure to take similar steps during the early stages of the recent events in Lebanon. As you might recall, during the first days of that action, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Bahrain all condemned Hezbollah, as did the Beirut government, for inciting the Israeli attacks. By not taking advantage of those gestures, we lost a great opportunity to bring some long-term stability in both situations. But, we should continue to pursue these sorts of solutions, just as we should work to break Syria apart from its unnatural alliance with Iran through direct discussions – something this Administration, with the strong support of George Allen, as refused to do.
Senator Allen has made it clear that, no matter how things are going, he will not question, let alone review and re-examine, the policies of the Bush Administration. Jim Webb, in contrast, has the experience – both on the battlefield and off – as well as the willingness and, most importantly, a strategic vision for doing so.
In debating the current occupation of Iraq we should be reminded of another era, in which a recently retired General took strong issue with a war that had gone on too long and resolved to do something about it. Few Americans called Dwight Eisenhower unpatriotic in the summer of 1952 when he criticized the Truman Administration for its conduct of the Korean War. It’s worthwhile in this era where Generals who speak out are accused of betrayal, to quote the five-star General who became our president.
“Where do we go from here?” he asked. “When comes the end? … These questions demand truthful answers. Neither glib promises nor glib excuses will serve. They would be no better than the glib prophecies that brought us to this pass… [a]ny answer that dishonestly pledged an end to war in Korea by any imminent, exact date would brand its speaker as a deceiver. The second and equally false answer declares that nothing can be done to speed a secure peace. It dares to tell us that we, the strongest nation in the history of freedom, can only wait, –and wait– and wait. Such a statement brands its speaker as a defeatist.
“The old Administration cannot be expected to repair what it failed to prevent. Where will a new Administration begin? It will begin with it’s President taking a simple, firm resolution. The resolution will be: To forego the diversions of politics and to concentrate on the job of ending the Korean war-until that job is honorably done.
“And just as General Eisenhower made that pledge 54 years ago, it is relevant today. We must forego the slash and burn political tactics that have marked the last six years, and reach for a true solution to the war in Iraq and the chaos in the Middle East.”