Alexander's Column

National security and international policy in 2005

Mark Alexander · Jan. 14, 2005

(This is Part Two of a two-part commentary on politics and policy in 2005. Part One, devoted to the domestic policy outlook, may be read at

Along with the Declaration of Independence and Gettysburg Address, George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address stands tall among the most eminently quotable – and venerable – documents in American history. And like all great statements, it has been subjected to generations of disparate exegesis by scholars, politicians, and partisans of every stripe.

Nevertheless, Washington’s famous letter stands as testimony to a man who could be trusted with power because he would so readily give it up; a man whose mere presence held together the early Republic, and whose impending departure hinted at uncertain days ahead. Washington’s advice to the children of the War for Independence was and remains, simply, concord at home, independence abroad.

The prospects for the United States in 2005 – another time of cataclysmic changes abroad, partisan divide at home and threats looming on the horizon – present us with the sorts of hopes and uncertainties that the Generation of ‘76, by 1796, knew all too well. This essay will attempt to address a few of these issues, specifically those of foreign policy and national security, in the hope of staying true to Washington’s advice “…that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, [it] will acquire…the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.”

The United Nations

In 2005, we anticipate the debate over the viability of the UN as an instrument for international cooperation will continue – and the body will continue to serve as a springboard for those wishing to attack the United States, global democratization, free markets and western values as a whole. Fortunately, the Bush administration has demonstrated its independence from the corruption and ineptitude of the UN and its Security Council, most prominently in its decision to retaliate against the Taliban and take pre-emptive action against Saddam Hussein. The UN will continue to attempt to control the direction and pace of the war on terror, but the body will remain ultimately impotent in its efforts to derail U.S. foreign policy.

The reality is that an organization consisting of all nations can be no more than the sum of its members’ own politics, policies and ambitions. And, such an organization can have no coherent agenda of its own. Amid its scandals, corruption and general incompetence, any hope for resurrecting the UN as a productive international body appears unfounded.

The Middle East

Among the key foreign-policy issues of 2005 is the continued move toward democratization in the Middle East, especially the Iraqi elections slated for 30 January. Free elections in Iraq will have a powerful effect on the nation and the region as a whole, serving as a repudiation of both al-Qa'ida’s aspiration of a restored Islamic caliphate and the Ba'athist vision of Pan-Arab fascism.

Further, with the loss of U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, a continued U.S. presence in the region – at the invitation of a free Iraq – provides a forward presence against any anti-democratic or destabilizing efforts from Iran and Syria. With Iraq free and on the road to stability, democratic movements surfacing within their totalitarian regimes, and the U.S. military on the ground near-by, the mullahs and terrorists alike know their days are numbered.

Among the Palestinians, we expect the election to mean little, at least in the short term. Palestinian reform must start from within, beginning with an unqualified renunciation of terrorist rhetoric and dismantling of its organizations. To the contrary, Mahmoud Abbas, the winner of Sunday’s election, pledges protection to terrorists, calls Israelis “the Zionist enemy,” and demands that Israel return to her pre-1967 borders.

To be sure, the prospects for democratization of the Middle East are neither easy nor inevitable. In the long run, however, the emergence of free states across the region is the closest thing to a guarantee of stability, prosperity and security for the Middle East and the West alike. For this reason, a continued U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, Iraq, and any other moderate and democratic-minded regimes is an imperative for long-term peace and security.

Defense Transformation

Another pertinent issue in 2005 will be the continuing transformation of the defense establishment to meet the security needs of the 21st century. The defense budget has grown from $291 billion in 2001 to $437 billion in 2004. However, this increase in spending doesn’t necessarily correlate with defense transformation; rather, it largely reflects the (worthwhile) expense of sustaining military commitments on the ground after September 11, 2001.

Consequently, the FY2006 Department of Defense budget prospectus highlights the hard choices between modernization and funding our nation’s current needs. This is most apparent in cuts to new Air Force and Navy weapons systems, including cuts in funding to missile-defense research and development.

When it comes to choices between transformation and present-day sustenance, the trick, of course, is to do both – smartly. In the end, defense transformation must reflect a balance in preparing for threats both asymmetric and symmetric, both conventional and unconventional.


On the subject of asymmetric threats, terrorism remains front and center in 2005. The best news in the war on terrorism is that, miraculously, we haven’t suffered another attack on U.S. soil since that fateful day in September 2001. Above all, this fact is the best vindication for the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive warfare – though it isn’t a guarantee against future strikes. We must keep in mind that we choose to fight the terrorists abroad so that we are not forced to fight them here at home.

To achieve additional successes in the war on terrorism in 2005, look for the Bush administration to continue to strengthen and expand the Special Forces units of the armed services in tandem with other Defense transformation initiatives. Likewise, as the intelligence community begins its overhaul, we must develop human intelligence assets on the ground around the globe. (Look for a complete discussion of Intelligence and Homeland Security reforms in next week’s Patriot Digest, No. 05-03.)

As outlined in Patriot No. 04-49, it is imperative that we also confront the terrorist threat by way of consistent enforcement of existing immigration and border laws, while working to reform immigration practices as a matter of vital national security. When seen through the lens of national security, the porosity of our nation’s borders and its attendant susceptibility to terrorist insurgents make immigration reform an issue whose time has come.

Finally, as a part of a holistic approach to our fight against terrorism, the U.S. must work to expand free trade and democratic prosperity globally in 2005. Such prosperity stabilizes populations and legitimate governments and serves as an antidote to ideological radicalism and state totalitarianism – the dual impetus of the terrorist threat we face today.


Last week, at the conclusion of Part One of this essay, we noted that “discussion on domestic politics and policy without reference to their counterparts on the international scene will paint, at best, only half the picture.” We hope the summary offered above paints the rest, albeit in broad strokes. We also noted that if many of our Founders, in the spirit of Washington’s “Farewell,” were idealistic in their belief that partisanship stops at the water’s edge, perhaps our present predicament is telling us to revisit that idealism – not so much in terms of our deviation from it, but rather how the alternative threatens the survival of the Republic. As Washington himself concluded, “Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.”

Quote of the week…

“I assured [the American people] that I will remain firm and committed to fighting and winning the war on terror. We will deploy assets to defeat people before they come and hurt us. I believe that we are in a global war against an ‘ism’ that can be defeated, and must be defeated. One way you defeat them is to find them and bring them to justice. That’s why we need good intelligence, the capacity to move quickly, a military that understands the stakes and is preparing the troops to meet the challenges. The other way is to spread freedom. And I believe that…free societies will be peaceful societies.” –President George W. Bush

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