Republican nonsense about national security
The Republicans are repeating the nonsense that twice helped propel George W. Bush into the White House: that the Democrats are ill-suited to protect the nation militarily and are prepared "to surrender to terrorism." Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate for the Presidency, is already playing the tune about the Democrats' "weakness on defense."
There is an extraordinary irony in the Republican effort to exploit the fear of terrorism by denigrating the Democrats' stance on military preparedness. During Bush's two terms in office, U.S. military capabilities have been so weakened that top-ranking military brass have warned that we may be incapable of responding effectively against any new military threat.
The reason, of course, is Iraq. The 2003 invasion was made despite the skepticism of many generals who did not regard Saddam Hussein's regime as an imminent threat to national security. They regarded the Iraq invasion as a serious distraction from the far more important war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. As the skeptics feared, the prolonged Iraq war demands have strained U.S. military readiness.
Meantime, what had been a triumph in Afghanistan has escalated into such bitter warfare that the U.S. has found it necessary to call upon its NATO allies to send troops for support. The Taliban regime has regained its strength and much of its authority in the country, enabling Al-Qaeda to become a bigger terrorist threat.
I often wonder about the wisdom of our foreign-affairs policy-makers. The Taliban, which has provided a harbor for Al-Qaeda for so many years, is partially an American creation. It is an outgrowth of the Afghan forces which received substantial U.S. support in their battle against the Soviet Russian invaders. In our preoccupation with ending the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, we failed to anticipate that the Taliban would become a radical Islamic regime allied with anti-American terrorists.
To counter the Republican nonsense about the alleged Democratic weakness on defense issues, the Democrats would very wise to select as a running mate for Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama a vice-presidential candidate who has impressive military credentials and who has been an outspoken Iraq war critic. Two obvious candidates: Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander, who has political aspirations, and Sen. James Webb, Virginia's Democratic senator who was once a Republican Secretary of the Navy and is a former Marine officer.