Are we safer today than we were five years ago?
The facts speak for themselves. Each of the so-called "axis of evil countries" poses a greater threat now than it did then: Iraq is on the verge of chaos, Iran is closer to developing nuclear weapons and North Korea has 400 percent more fissile material.
The Administration's conviction that democracy can be imposed by force from the outside and its simplistic equation of democracy with elections has helped legitimize already militarized groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
Five years ago President Bush pledged to capture Osama bin Laden. Today bin Laden remains at large. Our forces are struggling to keep Afghanistan from unraveling. There is no strategy to capture, kill or dissuade more terrorists than our enemies are creating. We know from Katrina and the failing grades issued by the 9/11 Commission that we are not sufficiently secure at home. This Administration has failed to implement all of the 9/11 recommendations and slashed support for local law enforcement and first responders.
The Administration continues to conflate under one label - "the war on terrorism" -- very disparate challenges from very different groups and countries and to use the same limited set of tools - military force and regime change - to fight them. We must refocus America on the most lethal threat: the possibility radical fundamentalists will acquire weapons of mass destruction and develop strategies for success in Iraq and Afghanistan. That will give America more freedom, flexibility and credibility to engage other challenges, including outlaw states that flout the rules, violence in the Middle East, the struggle for the hearts and minds of tens of millions of Muslims, the emergence of China and India, and energy and environmental security.
To make this country safer, we must recapture the totality of America's strength - wielding our political, diplomatic, economic and moral might, together with our military power. Senator Biden would:
Create a homeland security trust fund to implement all the 9/11 Commission recommendations and invest in local law enforcement
Intercept threats abroad through a comprehensive prevention strategy Restore partnerships and build effective alliances Advance democracy, bolster failing states, engage and win the war of ideas. 1. Create Homeland Security Trust Fund The Bush tax cuts for millionaires exceed $60 billion this year alone. Senator Biden would take back some of the tax cuts for people making over a million dollars a year in order to put $10 billion a year ($50 billion over 5 years) into a Homeland Security Trust Fund to:
Immediately implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission
Hire 50,000 cops, 1,000 FBI agents, and more rail police to ensure we have sufficient manpower prevent and respond to terror attacks in our communities Require 100 percent cargo container scanning at our nation's sea ports to prevent radiological materials and other dangerous materials from being smuggled into the country Harden soft targets within our critical infrastructure by prioritizing vulnerabilities, setting robust security standards, and funding security upgrades Replace deadly chemicals whenever feasible alternatives exist Implement strict interoperability standards for our first responders and provide them with the spectrum and equipment to allow them to talk during an emergency Spur research and development to ensure that we have the technologies to detect nuclear materials, liquid explosives, and other threats at our nation's sea and airports and border crossings Invest in our public health system to ensure the capacity to respond to biological, chemical, radiological attacks or pandemics such as SARS or bird flu 2. Intercept Threats Abroad Real security comes from prevention - not preemption. Threats must be defused before they reach the U.S., especially the possibility radical fundamentalists will acquire weapons of mass destruction. Senator Biden would:
Expand programs to destroy loose weapons of mass destruction and dangerous materials in the former Soviet Union and extend them to other countries
Improve detection systems to prevent materials of mass destruction from transiting the globe Seek and enforce new international laws to intercept ships and planes suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction Help partner countries build the capacity to disrupt and destroy extremist networks, secure their borders and detect outbreaks of diseases Require tougher non- proliferation policies and reform the Non Proliferation Treaty to closes the nuclear fuel cycle loophole Give our military the tools they need to succeed by increasing military end strength by 100,000, providing more Special Operators and UAVs Expand foreign language expertise in the government, intelligence services and armed forces Increase focus on counter-narcotics and transnational crimes that fund extremists Expand human intelligence, tear down bureaucratic walls that prevent information sharing Develop a strategy for success in Iraq to avoid trading a dictator for chaos and win the war in Afghanistan so it does not become again a haven for extremists 3. Restore Partnerships And Build Effective Alliances Instead of alienating them, the U.S. must work with strong partners and build effective alliances. Taking on the radical fundamentalists alone isn't necessary, it isn't smart and it won't work.
Forge new international alliances of law enforcement, intelligence, and financial officials to uproot terrorists and end their funding
Establish international rules of conduct, live by them, encourage others to do the same, but insist that the rules be enforced. Lead other countries to a new international commitment to protect innocents and prevent acts of mass destruction. Sometimes force is necessary to do that, as it was in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan and as it is now in Darfur. Strengthen and re-orient international institutions, including the UN, NATO and other regional organizations, to combat terror and to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Re-establish relationships of trust with allied democracies by engaging on issues of common concern, including climate change, energy security and infectious disease. 4. Advance Democracy, Bolster Failing States, Win the War of Ideas America must engage and win the war of ideas between freedom and radical fundamentalism, proving to millions of people who are politically and economically disenfranchised that we offer hope while our adversaries offer only hatred. Democracy is an antidote to extremism, but it cannot be imposed by force and cannot stop at elections. We also must build democratic institutions and bolster failing states, which can become havens for terror. Sen. Biden would:
Build the institutions of democracy: political parties, effective government, independent media and judicial systems, secular education, labor unions and non-governmental organizations Bolster failing states by funding education programs to compete with the radical madrassas, building schools and training teachers, opening closed economies, empowering women, relieving more debt Establish government and civilian rosters and a reserve corps of law enforcement personnel, technical experts and administrators to help provide security, training and expertise to governments that are struggling to combat terrorism or consolidate democracy Empower moderate governments and groups to fill power vacuums, such as Abu Mazen (against Hamas) and the Lebanese government (instead of Hezbollah) Reinvigorate public diplomacy to explain our policies by increasing exchange programs, expanding international broadcasting, and recruiting more diplomats who speak languages of strategic importance. Use preemptive diplomacy to engage adversaries like Iran and North Korea and make clear what these countries can achieve by acting responsibly - and what they risk if they do not. Going the extra diplomatic mile will make it more likely that allies will stand with us for tougher action if diplomacy fails. America's greatest strength is its ideas and ideals - our voice must be heard, not silenced. Restore America's moral authority by speaking and acting consistently against regimes that abuse human rights and ensuring that our government's conduct is beyond reproach. Forge an alliance of democracies to work together to advance freedom. * * *
We live in a period where the dominant concern is the possibility the world's most extreme groups will get their hands on its most lethal weapons. By calling on the totality of America's strength, this threat does not need to stay with us forever - any more than communism or fascism did. If we are smart as well as strong, Americans will read about this period as a chapter in the history of this country, not the final chapter.