Intro text for Issues Page:
Principles for an Afghanistan Strategy
When the Obama Administration began a 60-day review of its Afghanistan strategy, a diverse group of progressive experts in development, counter-terrorism, regional politics and US politics came together to advise NSN on a set of principles that might guide both the Administration in building a new strategy and advocates in Congress, the media and the public in judging a proposed strategy. We begin from the premise that the situation in the United States, and the history and dynamics of the region, require a sharp differentiation between objectives that we might like to achieve and a baseline of what must be achieved for our national interests and our moral obligations – to our military, our citizens and the people of Afghanistan.
Prepare America to Deal with the China Challenge
China is a country on the rise – economically, politically, and militarily. Its dramatic economic emergence has a direct impact on the U.S., especially as our economies become increasingly interconnected. It is important to ensure that China becomes a responsible member and stakeholder in the international community, but we must also stand up to China when its actions conflict with our values and interests. China is not yet our friend, but it is not our enemy, either. How we manage this relationship will be of major importance to the future of the U.S.
Take Dramatic Action
Energy is a security issue. Oil has passed $100 a barrel, gas is approaching $4 a gallon, and American jobs and well-being are threatened. We need a comprehensive energy strategy to make our country, our livelihoods, and our environment more secure. We have lost time over the last eight years – and we are more dependent on fossil fuels than ever – but we have the technology to start making changes, we have public calls for action, and we have ready partners in other nations. The time for dramatic action is now.*
A Difficult Challenge Requires Firm Diplomacy Not Bluster
We need leadership that can engage Iran using smarter diplomatic strategies and tough-nosed negotiations, instead of depending on overblown rhetoric and threats of war. While the Bush administration refused to talk to Iran, the country’s influence throughout the Middle East increased, and the threat of its nuclear program grew. Bluster, isolation and incompetence have failed. Smart, strong leadership is needed.
Restore American Military Power
Our military is second to none, but eight years of negligence, lack of accountability, and a reckless war in Iraq have left our ground forces facing shortfalls in both recruitment and readiness. Every service is out of balance and ill-prepared. We need a new strategy to give the military the tools it needs for the challenges we face today. And we need leadership that meets our obligations to the men and women who put their lives on the line.
Focus on the Greatest Danger
Al Qaeda’s strength in remote areas of Pakistan forms the greatest threat to America’s security today. But the Bush Administration has put its priority on Iraq, taking its eye off the ball, and allowing Al Qaeda to regroup and plot against the U.S. Instead of finding Bin Laden, or building a reliable ally in a volatile region, the U.S. pursued a one-dimensional policy focused on General Musharraf and poured billions of unaccountable, unmonitored military assistance dollars into the country. We must shift our strategy to support Pakistan’s people, not just its military ruler, and help show that democracy and development can go together with effective counter-terrorism.
This is NSN's 11-part examination of George W. Bush's national security and foreign policy legacy.
The sorry national security legacy of the Bush administration can be measured in in the President’s failure to meet his own rhetorical objectives: “victory” in Iraq, an Afghanistan cleansed of terrorists, a Middle East transformed and democratic, a US military strengthened, a global economy rejuvenated and a world in which democracy and freedom are “on the march.” It can also be charted in the renewal of terrorism, religious extremism and violence emanating from Central and South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia about which the administration can or will do little; the disintegration of our closest alliances and rise of states openly hostile to us in our own hemisphere. Perhaps most starkly it is marked in domestic and world public opinion, where President Bush plummeted from the highest – to lowest-ranked President in the history of public opinion research, and took global regard for the US to uncharted lows. This dramatic decline, the largest in history, can be attributed first and foremost to the President’s failed national security policies. While economic failure will undoubtedly mar the Bush’s legacy, it is his foreign policy which will define George W. Bush as one of the worst presidents in American history.
Responding to Realities
The past eight years have seen a Russian resurgence built off vast energy wealth and great power aspiration. Russia now can – and does – block US goals at the United Nations, threaten and even use force against young democratic countries the US supports, and influence issues of great concern to the United States, such as in Iran, in Central Asia, on the UN Security Council. The Bush Administration failed to understand this resurgence or send clear signals about how the US would respond. Instead, for the last eight years the Bush administration has pursued a misplaced approach founded on the personal relationship between President Bush and Putin. This approach has failed. Now the US faces a steep challenge with few good options – we must attempt to work with Russia on areas of mutual interest, as well as rebuild international consensus to stand up to Russia when its actions conflict with American interests and ideals.
An Effective Approach