EMERSON RADIO ADDRESS: Providing for the Common Defense
"A strong national military was one of the original premises for American Independence in the 18th Century. Today, the relevance of our common defense is just as great, but the emphasis on capable armed services seems to have waned. We must ensure that our country can defend itself in ways our Founders never imagined, but certainly anticipated.
Today, this debate has nothing to do with whether one thinks we should bring our troops home from Iraq or whether one thinks they should stay there until the job is finished. Global terrorism will exist in a dependent Iraq stricken with civil war and it will afflict a free and strong Iraq, just as it continues to afflict a free and strong Israel.
Likewise, terrorists target Americans without regard to faith or politics. Growing nuclear threats from countries like North Korea and Iran, the leaders of which are sworn enemies of the United States, represent a dangerous trend. These countries have no aversion to the "mutually-assured destruction" understood and feared by Cold War leaders in America and the U.S.S.R. They view the destruction of their people as a necessary means to an end.
Make no mistake, America is at the center of this worldwide, international conflict. Whether we choose to be or not, our country is the target of extremism and terrorism the only intent of which is to disrupt or destroy our way of life and our people.
Why are we at the center of the terrorists' targets? Our freedoms and our representative government make America a beacon of hope to millions around the world. Yet these same characteristics inspire the hatred of those who abhor progress and would rather keep their people in a vise-grip of despotism and fear, living in the past.
Our charge is to stop a growing terrorist network, one with access to ever-more sophisticated weapons. We must prevent the nuclear technology in North Korea from reaching American territory, be it by long-range missile or to al-Qaeda and through the Middle East, then on to a container ship destined for a busy U.S. port. Other weapons funnel to America's enemies every day, to gangs and drug rings, to opportunistic dictators and to aspiring domestic terrorist cells like the one discovered last month in Florida. The possibilities are dangerous and endless, and they illustrate the many reasons why we must have a secure homeland defense.
We must also have a strong diplomatic corps. America alone cannot prevent terrorists throughout the world from coalescing and rising to attack. We need the help of our allies and of our rivals, countries like China and Russia which have an important stake in the North Korean crisis. We must turn to cooperative talks, economic incentives, sanctions and embargos before arriving at the very last resort of these negotiations: military force.
However, our military and American military technology are still extremely important - even if they are the last arrow in our arsenal of diplomacy. Congress and the president have a great obligation to make certain the defense budgets we pass are constantly improving a well-provisioned, organized military. A mobile, prepared force that can move to defend, as well as to attack, is essential to preserving the blessings of liberty that also make us the targets of extremists and international terrorism.
Just as in the Cold War, our military must serve as a deterrent. Now it must also protect us against terrorists who do not understand the term, who would sacrifice everything if only to bring America down with them. A strong defense has never been more essential to the future of our democracy.
In the model of what our Founders envisioned, we must be strong, ready, and willing to fight for our country and our citizens whenever and wherever a threat arises. This is, in principle and practice, how we provide for the common defense."