Senate Democrats

We Cannot Afford to Stay the Course: The Bush-McCain Republican Record on National Security

It would be difficult to overstate the strategic failures of the Bush Administration on national security. Today, we face a world that is far more dangerous and far less secure – largely due to the way in which this Administration has directed U.S. policy. Despite its rhetoric, the Bush Administration has consistently failed to employ effective strategies for promoting U.S. national security goals. Time and again, it has attempted to address complicated policy challenges with simplistic approaches; opted for tough talk over tough diplomacy, isolation over strategic engagement; and substituted military might for smart strategies and real leadership.

Even with vital national security interests at stake, Bush-McCain Republicans have failed to address mounting threats such Iran and North Korea, and refused to right our path, despite faltering policies. Whether it was the failure to provide sufficient troops to Afghanistan in 2001 or Iraq in 2003, the decision to leave the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda unfinished in Afghanistan and Pakistan and divert U.S. attention and resources to Iraq, or the refusal to talk to our adversaries even when they pose a real threat to global stability, the Bush Administration has continued to stay the course with irresponsible, failing strategies at great expense to U.S. national security.

It is the result of these fundamental miscalculations, misplaced priorities, and missed opportunities that the United States today faces a Taliban threat that is stronger than it was in 2001, a reconstituted al-Qaeda movement that once again poses a grave threat to the U.S. homeland, and an emboldened Iran and North Korea racing closer to full nuclear status. With the bulk of U.S. national security resources still focused on Iraq, real solutions to these challenges remain out of reach and more difficult to achieve.

Securing Afghanistan, Combating the Taliban and al-Qaeda

BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN RECORD: For more than seven years, the Bush Administration has had it wrong in Afghanistan. It not only has allowed the Iraq War to distract us from the real front in the battle against terrorism, it has employed a fundamentally inadequate strategy for achieving U.S. national security objectives in Afghanistan. From its failure to provide enough troops to hunt down bin Laden and secure the country in the fall of 2001, to its diversion of critical intelligence and military resources away from the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in 2002, and its wholesale shift of focus to an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq by 2003, the Bush-McCain Republican record in Afghanistan has been defined by mismanagement and misplaced priorities. At direct expense to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, the Administration has poured nearly four times the funding and troops into Iraq, while leaving the effort to secure Afghanistan and combat the resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda under-resourced and largely neglected.

While there is widespread consensus among national security experts and our military commanders in the field that success in Afghanistan requires a comprehensive diplomatic, economic and political solution, Bush-McCain Republicans have relied primarily on military force to direct our mission. Since 2001, the Administration has had no clear, comprehensive counterterrorism strategy to build the capacity of the Afghan government, improve the lives of the Afghan people, combat the country’s record opium trade, or eliminate the underlying support for the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists.

NATIONAL SECURITY COSTS OF THE FAILED BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLCIAN STRATEGY:

·        More than seven years after September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden and other key architects of the 9/11 attacks remain at large. For 2,577 days, the Bush Administration has failed to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. (as of 10/1/08)

·        Afghanistan is at risk of becoming a failed state and a potential safe haven for terrorists. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen recently assessed that the U.S. is not winning in Afghanistan and cautioned that we are “running out of time.” With the Karzai government in control of just 30 percent of the country, violence at an all-time high, a resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda, and record opium trade fueling corruption and insurgent activity, the success of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is in jeopardy. (Los Angeles Times, 9/11/08)

Although the Bush Administration is belatedly beginning to recognize the urgency of refocusing on Afghanistan, its call for a limited increase in troop levels remains insufficient for achieving U.S. national security goals. The additional brigade President Bush has offered to send would still leave U.S. forces in Afghanistan 20,000 short and does not provide the comprehensive strategy necessary for long-term success. As General Petraeus stated earlier this month, “We’ve got a situation in Afghanistan where clearly there have been trends headed in the wrong direction…military action is absolutely necessary but it is not sufficient.” (McClatchy, 9/10/08; Associated Press, 9/14/08)

·        The U.S. struggle to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people is in jeopardy. The Bush Administration’s inadequate investment in economic development and long-term reconstruction assistance is eroding Afghan support for U.S.-led counterterrorism initiatives as well as popular backing of the Karzai government. Seven years later, U.S. reconstruction efforts have not done enough to improve the lives of the Afghan people: access to clean water and health care continues to be extremely limited, food costs continue to rise, crime and corruption have grown rampant, while poverty remains widespread. (Center for American Progress, 6/11/08)

Efforts to win the support of the Afghan people are also being undermined by the Bush Administration’s military strategy. The current shortage of U.S. troops on the ground has forced military commanders to rely moreon airstrikes – a policy that has led to increased civilian casualties and caused a popular backlash against U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan. In a study released earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported that civilian deaths from U.S. and NATO airstrikes nearly tripled between 2006 and 2007 and remain high for 2008. Commanders warn that this heavy-handed strategy is making it more difficult for the Afghan government to cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. (Washington Post, 9/17/08; Human Rights Watch, 9/8/08)

Building an Effective Partnership with Pakistan in the Fight against Terrorism

BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN RECORD: The Bush Administration has pursued a dangerously simplistic approach toward Pakistan, a country central to reining in the threat of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, preventing nuclear terrorism, and promoting stability in a volatile region of the world. While the complexity of Pakistan’s challenges demand a comprehensive strategy, this Administration has relied almost exclusively on a short-sighted strategy built on a personal relationship with President Musharraf. Despite the regime’s authoritarian practices and history of ties with the Taliban and al-Qaeda extremists, the Bush Administration essentially outsourced U.S. counterterrorism efforts to Pakistan’s military. Since 2002, Bush-McCain Republicans have funneled $11 billion in military assistance to Pakistan with little oversight or accountability – and few real results.

Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the Bush Administration has no “comprehensive plan for meeting U.S. national security goals” in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) – the very area that our intelligence community says al-Qaeda has rebuilt its organization and is actively plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.  At the same time, Bush Administration and U.S. military officials acknowledge that the majority of the billions in U.S. assistance was used by the Pakistani military to finance weapons systems – and not to counter the threat of the Taliban and al-Qaeda operating inside its borders.

NATIONAL SECURITY COSTS OF THE FAILED BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN STRATEGY:

·        Al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists have secured safe havens along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan and regenerated their ability to attack the U.S. homeland. In the July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), our intelligence community assessed that al-Qaeda’s central organization had effectively regenerated its core capabilities and secured a new safe haven in the tribal region of Pakistan. According to the NIE, “Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities.” (National Intelligence Estimate, 7/17/07)

·        Al-Qaeda has rebuilt its core capacity and is today, inspiring new recruits and plotting more attacks. Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists operate freely and have grown increasingly secure in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Intelligence officials have reported strengthened ties between Pakistan’s intelligence agency and cited evidence the group’s involvement in increasingly deadly and sophisticated attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In March, CIA Director Michael Hayden stated that the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan represented a “clear and present danger to Afghanistan, to Pakistan and to the West in general, and to the United States in particular.” (New York Times, 7/30/08; General Michael Hayden, Meet the Press, 3/30/08)

Winning the Battle of Ideas in the War on Terrorism, Promoting American’s Global Leadership

BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN RECORD: In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the international community rallied behind America and the U.S.-led campaign against global terrorism. Since that time, the Bush Administration’s reliance on military power to lead its counterterrorism efforts, its record of undermining international institutions and laws, and its unilateralist foreign policies have squandered much of that goodwill and significantly damaged America’s moral and economic leverage in the world. While the Administration has actively professed support for democracy and freedom, it has pursued policies that fail to uphold these ideals, including its policies on military tribunals, unlawful detention and interrogation procedures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, and secret CIA prisons.

NATIONAL SECURITY COSTS OF THE FAILED BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN STRATEGY:

·        Al-Qaeda continues to expand its global network and inspire new movements around the world. In his 2008 Annual Threat Assessment, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell reported that al-Qaeda has continued to expand its worldwide operational and ideological reach over the past few years. New terrorist organizations have emerged and many existing networks have gained renewed strength, from al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa and Southeast Asia to “homegrown” extremists operating in many parts of Europe and even in the United States. While these organizations often draw resources and inspiration from al-Qaeda, they primarily operate independently, making them more difficult to identify and defeat.

·        The Bush Administration has undermined the United States ability to lead and win the campaign against terrorism. The Administration’s misguided policies have alienated key allies, served to empower al-Qaeda’s recruiting efforts and elevate its extremist ideology, and severely eroded U.S. moral leadership in the world – effectively weakening the international coalition against global terrorism.

·        Anti-American sentiment has reached unprecedented levels – particularly in the Muslim World. Approval ratings of the United States have fallen to record lows since 2002. The 2008 Pew Global Attitudes Project reported overwhelmingly negative views of the United States in much of the Muslim World, with the majority of the population in most countries – including Indonesia, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco – holding unfavorable views toward America. Underlying this sentiment is a widespread belief among many Muslims that the real intention of the U.S. campaign against terrorism is to weaken Islam and gain political dominance over Muslim countries. (Pew Global Attitudes Project, 7/22/08; American Security Project, 9/08)

·        Reckless Bush policies have lead to a significant decline in America’s leverage around the world. Disastrous Bush-McCain economic policies that have led to the current financial crisis are not only hurting us at home, they are threatening America’s ability to project power in the global arena. Experts say that the crisis has raised questions about America’s economic model and poses a considerable threat to U.S. credibility and influence abroad. Reports say that while foreign investors are losing confidence in the dollar, there is real concern that our indebtedness to foreign countries is compromising America’s ability lead on critical global initiatives. (Council on Foreign Relations, 9/26/08)

Promoting the Development of a Secure, Stable Iraq

BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN RECORD: The Bush Administration’s strategy in Iraq has been a failure from its conception. From the use of intelligence in the lead up to the war, to pre-war planning and post-war strategy and implementation, the Bush-McCain Republican policies for securing and rebuilding Iraq have proven short-sighted and misguided. Flawed policies on troop levels, detainee treatment, countering terrorist and insurgent forces, anti-corruption, and restoring basic services have severely undermined U.S. efforts to promote political reconciliation and build a legitimate, viable Iraqi government. More than five years after the President’s declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq, U.S. forces remain above pre-surge levels and the Bush Administration still has no strategy for success. Political officials, military leaders and national security experts agree that a political solution is the only way to bring long-term security and stability to Iraq, yet Bush-McCain Republicans continue to stay the course behind an open-ended military commitment.

NATIONAL SECURITY COSTS OF THE FAILED BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN STRATEGY:

·        The American people continue to bear an enormous economic burden of the war: even as the Iraqi government sits on nearly $80 billion in surplus oil revenues, the Bush Administration continues to pour $10 billion into Iraq each month. To date, more than $650 billion in U.S. taxpayer money has been devoted to the failed Bush strategy in Iraq.Experts estimate that maintaining a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq – as advocated by the White House and its Republican allies – could cost upwards of $3 trillion. This enormous drain on our economy has prevented the U.S. from addressing key national security priorities and meeting critical domestic needs at home. (CRS, 7/17/08; Joint Economic Committee, War at Any Price? 11/9/07)

·        For more than five years, U.S. troops have been bogged down in Iraq, unavailable to address the rising terrorist threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan or respond to other contingencies around the world. The opportunity costs of the Administration’s war in Iraq have been devastating for U.S. national security. While the Bush Administration has been focused on Iraq, it has left Afghanistan and Pakistan vulnerable to a Taliban and al-Qaeda resurgence and has allowed other threats to go unchecked in other parts of the globe.

·        Regional stability continues to be threatened by an emboldened Iran and an Iraqi refugee crisis. Continued insecurity and a weak central government in Iraq since 2003 – the result of the Bush Administration’s poor execution of the war in Iraq – have allowed Iran to assert unprecedented influence in the Middle East. In his 2007 Annual Threat Assessment, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Negroponte warned that Iran’s growing regional power posed a real threat to Middle East stability: “Iran is enhancing its ability to project its military power…with the goal of dominating the Gulf region and deterring potential adversaries… Our Arab allies fear Iran’s increasing influence, and are concerned about worsening tensions between Shia and Sunni Islam.”

At the same time, the displacement of more than 4.7 million Iraqis following the U.S. invasion of Iraq and continued sectarian and insurgent violence has presented an enormous humanitarian challenge and economic burden to the region. The U.N. estimates that more than two million Iraqis have fled to neighboring states recent years, including Jordan, Syria and Egypt. In its August 2007 NIE, our intelligence community warned of the destabilizing impact of this crisis: the “[p]opulation displacement resulting from sectarian violence continues, imposing burdens on provincial governments and some neighboring states and increasing the danger of destabilizing influences spreading across Iraq’s borders over the next six to 12 months.” (National Intelligence Estimate, 8/23/07)

·        The war has fueled radicalism and empowered al-Qaeda and the global terrorist threat. As we know from a number of assessments from our intelligence community, the Bush strategy in Iraq has failed to make us safer at home or make the world safer from terrorism. National Intelligence Estimates released in 2006 and 2007 assessed that the conflict in Iraq had become a “cause celebre” for jihadists and was “help[ing] al-Qaeda energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.” (National Intelligence Estimate, April 2006, released 9/26/06 and National Intelligence Estimate, 7/17/07)

·        Repeated and extended deployments of U.S. troops to Iraq have dangerously undermined our military readiness and left our country without a strategic reserve. The Bush Administration’s flawed Iraq strategy and mismanagement of our military has caused a readiness shortfall in both our active-duty and National Guard and Reserve forces. Military leaders warn that the continuing crisis is compromising the quality of force training, weakening our strategic deterrence, and limiting the ability of our forces to quickly respond to domestic disasters and contingencies around the globe.

Countering Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions and Destabilizing Influence in the Middle East

BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN RECORD: The Bush Administration has failed develop a comprehensive strategy toward Iran, the regime it declared part of an “axis of evil” and a “grave and growing danger” to the United States and the world.Instead of working with other countries to devise a realistic “carrot and stick” approach for halting the country’s nuclear weapons program and its support for terrorism, and engaging Tehran on shared national security interests, the Bush Administration has pursued a one-dimensional, confrontational approach. While pushing for tough sanctions, advocating for regime change, and refusing direct talks, the Administration has missed critical opportunities. At the same time, its confrontational strategy and saber-rattling has served to embolden Tehran’s drive for a nuclear weapon and largely discredited the threat of military action, which, experts say, makes the prospect of conflict more likely.

NATIONAL SECURITY COSTS OF THE FAILED BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN STRATEGY:

·        Iran has made significant progress in its enrichment efforts. While estimates vary, most experts believe that Iran will have the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon within the next several years to a decade. In his 2008 Annual Threat Assessment, DNI McConnell stated that the earliest Iran could reach nuclear status would be late 2009, but the most likely timeframe would be between 2010-2015.

·        Iran has become emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, while the United States in a weaker position to address its threat. Experts warn that the Administration’s record of disengagement from Iran and its failed policies in Iraq and the war on terrorism have significantly increased Iran’s influence in the region and weakened the capacity of the United States to address its growing threat.

·        Iran has fomented instability and gained unprecedented influence in the region. With direct diplomatic channels with the United States largely closed, Iran has continued to look to terrorist and extremist groups – including Hamas and Hezbollah – to assert its power and exert influence in the Middle East. Iran has been responsible for continued unrest and violence in Iraq and Lebanon and poses a growing threat to Israel.

Addressing North Korea’s Nuclear Threat

BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN RECORD: The Bush Administration also has failed to advance an effective, coherent strategy for addressing the national security challenges presented by North Korea. Despite the success of the Agreed Framework in halting the country’s plutonium production and keeping its nuclear ambitions in check under the Clinton Administration, the Bush White House adopted a hard-line approach with Pyongyang. In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush declared North Korea part of an “axis of evil,” accusing the government of “arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction…” Following the breakdown of the Agreed Framework process in 2003, North Korea kicked out international monitors and lifted its eight-year freeze on plutonium production. From 2003 to 2006, the Bush Administration rejected any meaningful negotiations with Pyongyang. It was not until the country detonated a nuclear device in 2006 that the Bush Administration changed course and moved toward a limited engagement strategy with North Korea.

NATIONAL SECURITY COSTS OF THE FAILED BUSH-MCCAIN REPUBLICAN STRATEGY:

·        North Korea has dramatically increased its nuclear materials stockpile under the Bush Administration’s watch. When President Bush took office in 2000, North Korea’s nuclear capabilities were in check: Pyongyang had enough materials to manufacture just one to two nuclear weapons, and its plutonium production program remained frozen under the terms of the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States. Today, the situation is markedly different. Since renouncing the freeze and withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003, North Korea has made considerable advances in its nuclear weapons program and also tested a nuclear device. Experts believe that the country may have produced enough plutonium to manufacture up to nine nuclear weapons. With the apparent breakdown of the six-party framework in recent days, there are grave concerns that Pyongyang is once again restarting its nuclear program. (Congressional Research Service, 2/5/08; Institute for Science and International Security)

·        Pyongyang has become emboldened and poses an increased threat to global security. While the Bush Administration has wavered between dual strategies of engagement and isolation, North Korea has achieved strategic gains and become a greater danger to the international community. As its nuclear advancements, missile tests, and defiance of treaty obligations have gone unpunished and the Bush Administration’s rhetoric proven empty, Pyongyang has become emboldened. Troubling reports have warned that North Korea may have sold nuclear materials and expertise to our adversaries – including Syria and Iran. Further, a number of experts have suggested that it is plausible that North Korea would sell weapons of mass destruction to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

Bush-McCain Republicans Stand for More of the Same

Despite the disastrous results of the past eight years, Republicans in Congress, including Senator McCain, stand by the Bush record on national security and support the very policies and misguided approaches that have left America less safe and less capable of advancing our national security goals. It is clear that we cannot afford to allow Bush-McCain Republicans to continue on this path.

·        Bush-McCain Republicans support continuing the open-ended commitment in Iraq. Despite the tremendous human, economic, and national security costs of the Bush Iraq policy, Republicans have supported maintaining a large, long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq – a policy has given a blank check to Iraq, kept U.S. troops hostage to the country’s political leaders, and is costing the American people $10 billion each month.

·        Bush-McCain Republicans would continue to leave our mission in Afghanistan dangerously under-resourced. Even as our top military leaders warn that we are “running out of time” to save our mission in Afghanistan, Bush-McCain Republicans have supported keeping the bulk of U.S. troops and national security resources in Iraq – a strategy that comes at the direct cost of addressing the resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda and escalating violence in Afghanistan.

·        Bush-McCain Republicans share the same misplaced priorities on national security. As Secretary Gates recently testified, the greatest threat to the U.S. homeland comes from al-Qaeda’s central leadership operating in the tribal areas of Pakistan, yet Republicans stand by the Bush policy that has surged U.S. forces to Iraq, and continues to keep our limited national security resources diverted from the central front in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

·        Bush-McCain Republicans stand behind a reckless foreign policy based on the use of military force. The disastrous results of the Bush Administration’s over-reliance on military force makes clear that the challenges of the 21st Century demand the full range of national security policy tools, which include not only military power, but tough diplomacy, economic strength, smart leadership, and strong international partnerships. While our top military officials understand this, and have consistently asserted that our greatest national security challenges cannot be addressed by military force alone, but instead require comprehensive strategies and political solutions, Republicans continue to defend the Bush doctrine of preventive war and support its failed policy approaches to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea.

·        Bush-McCain Republicans also oppose the use of tough diplomacy, critical to addressing the national security challenges of the 21st Century. Bush-McCain Republicans have dismissed the indispensible role of smart diplomacy for effectively dealing with our adversaries. Instead, they have defended this Administration’s isolationist, hard-lined approaches that have only served to empower and embolden adversaries like Iran, while heightening national security challenges and weakening our leverage to address them.

·        Bush-McCain Republicans share a similar disregard for the rule of law and distaste for international cooperation. Despite the grave implications of the Bush Administration’s unilateralist foreign policies, flawed detainee policies, interrogation techniques, and flagrant disregard for international law, Bush-McCain Republicans stand by these practices which have undermined U.S. leadership on human rights, empowered terrorists’ recruiting efforts, place our soldiers at risk, and weakened international cooperation in the campaign against al-Qaeda and global terrorist threats.

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