Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has approved a new National Defense Strategy arguing that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should not be allowed to distract from the “implications of fighting a long-term, episodic, multi-front, and multi-dimensional conflict” against terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. Gates’ new strategy “encourages current and future U.S. leaders to work with other countries to eliminate the conditions that foster extremism.”
The strategy concludes, “the most important military component of the struggle against violent extremists is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we help prepare our partners to defend and govern themselves.”
The Bush administration’s recognition that “even winning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will not end the ‘Long War’ against violent extremism” is surprising. In 2004, when Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) expressed the same view, Bush smeared Kerry in two ads, posing the question “How can Kerry protect us if he doesn’t even understand the threat?” Watch it:
Kerry said in 2004, “I think we can do a better job of cutting off financing, of exposing groups, of working cooperatively across the globe, of improving our intelligence capabilities nationally and internationally, of training our military and deploying them differently, of specializing in special forces and special ops, of working with allies.”
Bush mistakenly believed that using military force to bring about regime change and then occupy Iraq would disrupt terrorism throughout the region. In contrast, Kerry argued the U.S. should focus on countering “nonstate actors” whose “goal wasn’t to govern states but to destabilize them.”
Bush and Vice President Cheney smeared Kerry as “naive and dangerous.” Now, four years later, as they embrace Kerry’s approach to counterterrorism, the threats that they promised to protect the country against have only grown more dangerous.