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Op-Ed: Joe Biden - The News-Journal- A Strategy for Real Security - March 9, 2003

  • Joe Biden
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[This Op-Ed was published in The (Wilmington) News-Journal on March 9, 2003. It was retrieved from archives and does not appear to be available on delawareonline.com] 1

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All-out war is only one phase of a long offensive 2

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I happen to think we will go to war with Iraq. And I happen to think the military phase will go relatively well. It's a war that is justified -- but make no mistake, one that is elective. 3

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Secretary of State Colin Powell has been working hard at the United Nations to gain the broadest consensus possible to show the world is united. That show of unity is the last best chance to avoid this war. Showing Saddam we mean business is the only hope to get him to comply. 4

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But our security depends on getting it right. 5

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For 28 years -- after the Berlin Wall went up in East Germany in August 1961 -- the threat of communism was unmistakable. The political line -- sometimes advancing, sometimes receding -- was between East and West, between our way of life and theirs. We spent billions of dollars on an arms race. We fought surrogate wars and lost 36,940 in Korea, and 58,178 in Vietnam. 6

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When the wall came down we felt a boundless sense that technology, ideas, and information would spread our values and our prosperity. 7

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By the late 1990s, more than half the world's people lived under governments of their own choosing. In our own hemisphere, every country but Cuba was a democracy. But for all the promise, there were signs of peril. Countries were not going to war with each other but with themselves in the Balkans, Haiti and Rwanda. 8

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America's place in the world was changing. When we assumed our new role of unchallenged pre-eminence, we became the focus of admiration and attraction but also anger and resentment. 9

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Our justifiable international activism in places like Bosnia and Kosovo threatened every despot who liked things just the way they were. 10

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Then came Sept. 11, 2001, in many ways the first morning in America no longer defined by the Cold War. The notion of war was no longer 40 Russian divisions crossing the Fulda Gap, bearing down on the rest of Europe. Armies had become stateless criminals united against us in the service of terrorism. 11

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We could no longer define security in old terms like mutual assured destruction, when thousands of missiles on both sides were aimed at millions of innocent civilians. 12

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A new line on the political map divided not just one ideology or civilization from another. It divided the forces of order and construction from chaos and destruction. 13

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Religious fundamentalism, international terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, rogue nations and failed states will become even more lethal if we allow them to get together in an environment of economic dissolution, environmental degradation or the spread of infectious disease. 14

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We must organize against these forces of destruction before they join forces against us. 15

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How do we do that? 16

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We need a thoughtful long-term strategy -- not an ad hoc reactive policy that relies on tired old notions or shortsighted ideas that deal with the urgent at the expense of the important. 18

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The central focus of our strategy, for the foreseeable future, must be to stop al-Qaida. It represents the most clear and present danger. 19

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It will take a sustained effort to build new kinds of international cooperation as our most effective weapon so we share intelligence better and cooperate on law enforcement, disrupt terrorists' financial networks and facilitate extraditions. 20

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We should still rally our allies, the United Nations and NATO to build this cooperation. 21

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And we must recognize that we cannot expect other countries to share our concerns if we show disdain for theirs. 22

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In taking on failed states such as Afghanistan that become a haven for thugs like Osama bin Laden, or outlaw states like Iraq, military power isn't enough. We have to show staying power. 23

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In Afghanistan, our military did a terrific job ending the Taliban's reign, but al-Qaida continues to be a dangerous threat in the region and around the world. We risk seizing defeat from the jaws of victory by relying on warlords to secure Afghanistan beyond Kabul. 24

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The Bush administration has not done nearly enough in Afghanistan to win the peace. If we go to war in Iraq, we can't afford to repeat that mistake. We'll have to stay until the country is secure, weapons of mass destruction are destroyed, and a stable pluralistic government is in place. 25

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In this borderless war, perhaps the single most important element is preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And the single most important action we can take is to help Russia secure and destroy stockpiled weapons. 26

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Over the past decade, programs have made major progress: deactivating 6,032 nuclear warheads, destroying 491 ballistic missiles and employing 22,000 displaced scientists. 27

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Unfortunately, the Bush administration came in predisposed against these programs and initially sought to cut their budgets when they need a significant increase. And we need to extend threat reduction programs to countries such as India and Pakistan. 28

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We also need a clear-eyed policy for dealing with North Korea. One of the world's worst proliferators is on the verge of becoming a plutonium factory, selling lethal materials to the highest bidder. 29

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North Korea may be to blame for the crisis. But two years of American policy incoherence has not helped. We've see-sawed between engagement and name- calling. But in the end, there's no alternative to direct talks so North Korea understands what it must do if it wants more normal relations with us. 30

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Remember the ship stopped on route from North Korea to Yemen? It was carrying 15 Scud missiles, possibly for re-export to Iraq. The United States let the ship go on its way because nothing in international law prohibited the shipment. We should lead the way toward a tough international interdiction regime to stop proliferation. 31

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Our final offensive hurdle is to continue to adapt our armed forces to new demands and missions. That means making them lighter and faster. It means downsizing our permanent presence in Europe and Asia in favor of rapid rotations and smaller deployments. It means fielding more unmanned aerial vehicles like the Predator. 33

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It means expanding and fully funding Special Forces. And it means training our troops for peacekeeping and helping the international community stand up a gendarme force to keep the peace after more heavily armed forces have won the war. 34

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Getting this right won't be easy. It certainly won't get done the right way by sticking our heads in the sand when it comes to making tough choices. 35

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The president's budget doesn't even include the cost of a war with Iraq. But it did include the first wartime tax cut in history. These times demand a more serious approach. 36

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A strong offensive strategy doesn't come cost free. It doesn't come without setting priorities and making trade-offs. 37

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We have to ask ourselves: Can we take on Iraq, prevent weapons proliferation, prosecute the war on terrorism, get Osama bin Laden and maintain a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans? 38

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The second part of a strategy for real security is a smart defense. That means making sure ports, airports, highways, trains, power plants, public buildings and neighborhoods are as secure as we can make them. 39

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Osama bin Laden sat in a cave in Afghanistan with a laptop and communicated by satellite phone, through internet sites and with e-mail to his minions around the world. So it'll take more than duct tape to defend ourselves. 40

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The president was right to implement a Democratic idea: the Department of Homeland Security. But follow the money. Look at the new budget with a reckless 42 percent cut in state and local law enforcement and homeland security assistance, . at a time when police are being asked to do more with less. 41

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We need to give state and local police access to terrorist watch lists, which they don't have now. We should expand the National Guard's role in homeland security, including disaster relief and emergency response. 42

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We should ensure the security of 100 percent -- not 2 percent -- of the 21,000 cargo containers that arrive in the United States. every day. Ports need secure entrances, sufficient inspectors and state-of-the-art screening. We should insist that countries of origin keep the right records and bills of lading. 43

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First responders need radios that work, gear to protect themselves, and training to protect others. Frontline health workers must be trained to recognize the symptoms of biological and chemical attack and given modern tracking equipment to spot outbreaks in days, not weeks. 44

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We have to improve security at nuclear plants and toxic chemical facilities. To date, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has failed to issue any new security requirements for the 103 nuclear plants in the United States -- 21 of which are within five miles of an airport. 45

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Finally, we have to ask ourselves: How do we shape the international environment to make us more secure? This may be the toughest question of all. 46

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The attack on America provided an opportunity to unite other nations. We have to remember that the world is not against us. Not long after 9/11, the French newspaper Le Monde ran a headline that said, "Nous sommes tous Americains" -- we are all Americans. It was an extraordinary statement. But what happened? 47

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We began to dictate to the world and appeared to be the unilateralists it feared we were. 48

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The world is not against us. A minority of fundamentalists are. Only a very small number of them are terrorists. 49

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The cause of their hatred isn't poverty. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were middle class. And no grievance can justify their actions. But a far larger number of people around the world are all too prepared to explain terrorism, even to provide sanctuary and support. These are the people we have to reach. 50

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And we cannot reach them if we abdicate our role to help resolve regional conflicts that matter to them, to stand for democracy and with those trying to build better lives. 51

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The Middle East deserves our utmost attention on its own terms. We're deeply invested in seeing an end to hostilities between Israel and all its neighbors. But progress would also pay dividends by securing Arab support on Iraq and terrorism. 52

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We have an opportunity to promote democratic change and good governance in the Arab/Muslim region that is desperate for progressive reform. 53

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The world's most powerful country must be seen as determined leaders, not reluctant followers, in empowering people economically and politically. Only then can we overcome the resentment of so many who see us as indifferent to their plight. 54

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Others resent our progress, so we have to do a better job of explaining ourselves -- and to use our power in a way that doesn't dissipate our influence but enhances it. 55