American Enterprise Online
April 3, 2006
By Alan W. Dowd

Democratic leaders in Congress have unveiled their plan to “protect America and restore our leadership in the world.” Dubbed “Real Security,” the four-page plan is remarkably thin on specifics and on how Democratic leaders intend to achieve some very worthy goals. 

Vowing to apply “national-security policies…that are both tough and smart,” the plan begins by outlining how the Bush administration has failed on a number of fronts.  

Specifically, the document blames the administration for “inadequate planning” and “incompetent policies” since 9/11 that have “failed to make America as safe as we should be.” According to Madeleine Albright, who helped introduce the plan last week, “I have never seen such rank incompetence.” Apparently, she has forgotten Tony Lake’s scheme to use Iran as a conduit for arming Bosnian Muslims, the nation-building debacle in Somalia, the hasty retreat from the coast of Haiti, the decision to bomb an aspirin factory in Sudan, the inexplicable decision not to kill bin Laden when the chance presented itself, the long, blood-stained list of unanswered terrorist attacks against the US, and the 78-day war of incrementalism that almost killed NATO. But that’s a subject for another essay.  

Turning back to the Real Security plan, it pays to recall that the Bush administration’s “inadequate planning” and “incompetent policies” have prevented, preempted or deterred every enemy attack—and protected every inch of US territory—since 9/11. No one—not one member of Congress, not one informed citizen, not one soot-covered survivor in Manhattan or the Pentagon—thought this would be the case on that terrible Tuesday morning four and a half years ago.  

The plan criticizes the administration for launching the war in Iraq “with manipulated intelligence.” But the only person who manipulated intelligence was Saddam Hussein. As Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray detail in Foreign Affairs, Saddam purposely left the impression that he held on to WMDs “since it played so well in the Arab world.” Thus, “many within Iraq’s ruling circle never stopped believing that the weapons existed.” If Saddam’s top military commanders and his own foreign minister believed he had WMDs until the very end, it should come as no surprise that Washington thought the same thing. When combined with his record of duplicity, Saddam’s dumb and deadly game of pretending to have WMDs while pretending not to have WMDs was his undoing.  

The Democratic plan claims that the administration has left US ports vulnerable. But just because we don’t see thousands of inspectors swarming around US ports, doesn’t mean the ports are vulnerable to terrorist attack. In fact, the US-led Container Security Initiative deploys US Customs agents to the world’s largest, busiest ports to screen goods and containers coming into the United States before they arrive here, thereby creating a ring of security well beyond America’s shores.  Today, 43 ports in dozens of nations participate in the program. 

According to the plan, the administration has failed to equip “soldiers in the field and first-responders at home.” Policy should not be made or judged according to how much is spent, because spending does not necessarily translate into success or effectiveness. But even by these measures, it seems that first-responders are getting all they need and more: One analysis published in Foreign Policy magazine reveals that federal spending on first-responders has grown by 500 percent since 2001 (from $616 million in to $3.4 billion).  

Failing to equip the troops—in wartime or peacetime—is unacceptable and self-defeating. Of course, when was the last time we heard this president complain about the size of the defense budget or say that defending US interests overseas is draining money away from America’s “real priorities” like “housing, health care, education, and public safety,” as some of the his critics have argued. 

According to the Real Security plan, the Bush administration has funneled “lucrative, no-bid contracts to companies such as Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) and others with friends in high places.” Of course, so did the Clinton administration. From 1995-2002, the US Army paid KBR $2.5 billion to fill its gaps in Bosnia and Kosovo. Note the dates and the places: Those contracts were written during Bill Clinton’s presidency administration to support military operations launched by Bill Clinton. Plus, as if to answer the Democrats, albeit three years early, historian Niall Ferguson uncannily noted in 2004 that Halliburton’s shares actually “declined by more than a third” between 2000 and the end of 2003. Nor did the firm “benefit significantly from the more aggressive Middle Eastern policy supported by its friends in high places.”  

Finally, the document criticizes the administration for developing an energy policy “that remains heavily dependent on foreign oil.” Of course, one key part of the president’s energy plan—a part that was blocked by Democratic leaders—was to tap into America’s own oil resources, which are plentiful. Milton Copulos, former member of the National Petroleum Council, notes that the US has 175 billion barrels of oil—oil “that has been discovered and can be produced right now”—and billions more in the form of oil shale. 

To be fair, there are parts of the plan that are on target.  

The plan promises to “eliminate Osama bin Laden, destroy terrorist networks, and finish the job in Afghanistan;” vows to “redouble efforts to stop nuclear weapons development in North Korea and Iran;” and calls for a 21st Century GI Bill of Rights.  

These are all worthy goals: bin Laden is better dead than alive; Afghanistan is better free than oppressed; the world is safer without a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea; and given the nature of this war, we need to develop fresh, creative incentives to keep recruitment levels high for decades; we also need programs to transition veterans of the war on terror (many of whom will carry lifelong scars) into postwar life.   

Yet there are no specifics on how to achieve any of these goals. And even more troublesome, some of these goals run counter to other goals presented in the document or endorsed by Democratic leaders.  

For example, even when terrorist networks are destroyed, sometimes the terrorists are not. Instead, they are captured. And when they are captured, they are taken to places like Guantanamo Bay or unnamed facilities in unnamed countries, which presents a problem: Several Democratic leaders want to shut down GITMO and end the practice of rendition. 

As to stopping the spread of nukes, if preventive war is wrong (as Democratic leaders concluded after Iraq), and US-led diplomacy is wrong (as Democratic leaders concluded after the six-party talks over North Korea), and EU-led diplomacy is wrong (as Democratic leaders have concluded during the Iran tug-of-war), then what is right? 

The plan offers tired platitudes like jump-starting regional diplomacy and prodding our allies. Ask Bill Clinton if that works. He and Tony Blair were alone when push came to shove in Iraq—not because they didn’t try regional diplomacy or didn’t want allies, but because diplomacy didn’t work and allies didn’t answer the call. In fact, allies like France and Russia, we now know, were doing far worse than sitting on the sidelines.     

Finishing the job in Afghanistan requires staying there a long time to rebuild and rehabilitate. Shouldn’t the same standard apply in Iraq? Not if we follow this Real Security plan, which calls for “significant transition” and “responsible redeployment of US forces” from Iraq in 2006. 

In short, this plan for Real Security is a real disappointment.