Kerry's foreign policy plan

The full text of Kerry's speech outlining his approach to the War on Terror is on the official campaign website. But the central point is this:

I do not fault George Bush for doing too much in the War on Terror; I believe he�s done too little.

The revelations by Richard Clarke that the Administration ignored terror prior to 9-11, and fixated on Iraq after 9-11, have supported Kerry's claim. Of course, the more important question is, what would Kerry do differently? Kerry makes his case first by pointing out that he would retain - and use - the option of force at the sole discretion of the United States without limitation by other governments:

If I am Commander-in-Chief, I would wage that war by putting in place a strategy to win it.

We cannot win the War on Terror through military power alone. If I am President, I will be prepared to use military force to protect our security, our people, and our vital interests.

But the fight requires us to use every tool at our disposal. Not only a strong military � but renewed alliances, vigorous law enforcement, reliable intelligence, and unremitting effort to shut down the flow of terrorist funds.

To do all this, and to do our best, demands that we work with other countries instead of walking alone. For today the agents of terrorism work and lurk in the shadows of 60 nations on every continent. In this entangled world, we need to build real and enduring alliances.

Allies give us more hands in the struggle, but no President would ever let them tie our hands and prevent us from doing what must be done. As President, I will not wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake. But I will not push away those who can and should share the burden.

The rhetorical position of reserving the option of unilateralism while seeking multilateralism is frankly a difficult one to articulate. It's probably impossible to avoid being misrepresented as "Kerry gives the UN a veto over American defense.

Ultimately, what are needed are specific details, not general guidelines. First, Kerry will strengthen the military - though I would prefer he use the word "rebuild" :

The next President must ensure that our forces are structured for maximum effectiveness and provided with all that they need to succeed in their missions. We must better prepare our forces for post-conflict operations and the task of building stability by adding more engineers, military police, psychological warfare personnel, and civil affairs teams.

And to replenish our overextended military, as President, I will add 40,000 active-duty Army troops, a temporary increase likely to last the remainder of the decade.

I have a feeling that this will make Phil Carter very happy :) Phil has long been an advocate of increasing the number of Military Police MPs) especially in light of the increased duty of nation-building that our troops are being asked to undertake.

Next, Kerry focuses on intelligence capabilities, making a fairly controversial statement:

Second, if I am President I will strengthen the capacity of intelligence and law enforcement at home and forge stronger international coalitions to provide better information and the best chance to target and capture terrorists even before they act.

But the challenge for us is not to cooperate abroad; it is to coordinate here at home. Whether it was September 11th or Iraq�s supposed weapons of mass destruction, we have endured unprecedented intelligence failures. We must do what George Bush has refused to do � reform our intelligence system by making the next Director of the CIA a true Director of National Intelligence with real control of intelligence personnel and budgets. We must train more analysts in languages like Arabic. And we must break down the old barriers between national intelligence and local law enforcement.

Many would argue that the barriers between local law enforcement and national intelligence exist for a good reason. They are right, but this isn't a simple black and white issue. Kerry himself was investigated by the FBI during Vietnam for excercising is free speech, by President Nixon, so it's safe to assume he is sensitive to the potential for abuse.

I think that there's ample reason to be optimistic that the increased capabilities he describes won't be abused without attracting the notice of the civil liberties watchdogs - made far more effecient and effective thanks to the Patriot Act advocacy. I am currently not as concerned about the Patriot Act as I am about the creation of the "enemy combatant" precedent which allows the government to incarcerate citizens without due process - that's an executive branch excess as far as I am awar of and not a problem rooted in the Patriot Act itself. Kerry's failure to mention the case of Jose Padilla for example is troubling.

Next, Kerry focuses on the money trail:

Third, we must cut off the flow of terrorist funds. In the case of Saudi Arabia, the Bush Administration has adopted a kid-glove approach to the supply and laundering of terrorist money. If I am President, we will impose tough financial sanctions against nations or banks that engage in money laundering or fail to act against it. We will launch a "name and shame" campaign against those that are financing terror. And if they do not respond, they will be shut out of the U.S. financial system.

The problem with Saudi is that there are high-level actors there who are at the root of funding for terror and who still remain untouched by the government. Dan Darling has made an extensive case for the failure of the Saudi government to perform with due diligence on the matter. However, I am not convinced as Kerry seems to be that sanction against the Saudis will work, because their fear of destabilization from within is stronger, and we will always need some of the kid-gloves approach given their ability to affect the oil market (even if we were 100% independent of Saudi imports). Whether the Bush Administration is excessively kid-gloved, I am unqualified to comment upon.

A better solution with Saudi is to try and innoculate them against the religious fundamentalists within, by working with them on ther own counter-terror programs. But that's really a separate issue. The main gist of Kerry's program is the "name and shame" strategy and subsequent isolation from the US financial system - both long-overdue ideas which the Bush Administration does not seem willing to entertain.

Finally, Kerry focuses in the "root cause" of WMD:

Fourth, because finding and defeating terrorist groups is a long-term effort, we must act immediately to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. I propose to appoint a high-level Presidential envoy empowered to bring other nations together to secure and stop the spread of these weapons. We must develop common standards to make sure dangerous materials and armaments are tracked, accounted for, and secured. Today, parts of Russia�s vast nuclear arsenal are easy prey for those offering cash to scientists and security forces who too often are under-employed and under-paid. If I am President, I will expand the Nunn/Lugar program to buy up and destroy the loose nuclear materials of the former Soviet Union and to ensure that all of Russia�s nuclear weapons and materials are out of the reach of terrorists and off the black market.

That the Bush Administration has actually cut funding for this goal is astounding. It's far more important than national missile defense (a program I'd like to see Kerry repudiate).

There is actually more, including a critique of Bush for insufficient funding for homeland defense. Overall, though, it's the direction I feel we need to go.

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