Yesterday, John Edwards published an op-ed in the Sioux City Journal that concisely stated the basics of his plan for creating a world free from terror. Edwards originally laid out his counterterrorism strategy on September 7th in a speech at Pace University, so what he discusses in the op-ed is not new, but it is a smart strategy for not only combating existing terrorists, but also preventing new terrorists from being recruited by terrorist organizations.
Here is an excerpt from JRE's op-ed yesterday:
For the sake of our nation’s security, we must take a bold new direction. This new approach requires sustained U.S. leadership and increased cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, both here at home and abroad, while preserving civil liberties and the rule of law. As president, I will launch a comprehensive new counterterrorism policy that will make America safer. It is based on two principles: strength and cooperation.
The centerpiece of this policy will be a new multilateral organization called the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization (CITO). Every nation has an interest in shutting down terrorism. CITO will facilitate cooperation on counterterrorism and intelligence between countries on all continents. CITO will allow members to voluntarily share financial, police, customs and immigration intelligence. Together, nations will be able to track the way terrorists travel, communicate, recruit, train and finance their operations. And they will be able to take action through international teams of intelligence and national security professionals who will launch targeted missions to shut down terrorist cells.
When Edwards first proposed CITO, Victor Comras of the Counterterrorism Blog lauded it as a sensible idea, and wrote a detailed post that lays out some of the reasons that existing organizations are not working well in a counterterrorism capacity.
John Edwards’ proposal for a new international Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization (CITO) deserve serious consideration. Edwards has put his finger on the single most important shortcoming in the war on terrorism – the serious lack of international cooperation and coordination in efforts to grapple with terrorism on a world wide scale. The United Nations, and the various terrorism related committees established by the Security Council, have simply failed to carry out this important function. (see my numerous blogs on this topic: (1), (2), (3), (4), and (5) here, ). This has left a void that the United States and certain other countries have sought to fill by establishing various ad hoc bilateral arrangements, and this process has produced only limited, and very uneven, success.
Edwards recognize is that where our counterterrorism efforts have fallen down is in too much reliance on the military as the only tool in our toolbox. He recognizes that we need better international cooperation, better human intelligence, and a multipronged approach that includes eliminating weapons of mass distraction, including nuclear weapons, and improving our relationships with the rest of the world, to help eliminate recruitment incentives for terrorist organizations. This is from his speech in May at the Council on Foreign Relations:
It is now clear that George Bush's misnamed "war on terror" has backfired—and is now part of the problem.
The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics, not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan. It has damaged our alliances and weakened our standing in the world. As a political "frame," it's been used to justify everything from the Iraq War to Guantanamo to illegal spying on the American people. It's even been used by this White House as a partisan weapon to bludgeon their political opponents. Whether by manipulating threat levels leading up to elections, or by deeming opponents "weak on terror," they have shown no hesitation whatsoever about using fear to divide.
But the worst thing about this slogan is that it hasn't worked. The so-called "war" has created even more terrorism—as we have seen so tragically in Iraq. The State Department itself recently released a study showing that worldwide terrorism has increased 25% in 2006, including a 40% surge in civilian fatalities.
By framing this as a "war," we have walked right into the trap that terrorists have set—that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war against Islam.
The "war" metaphor has also failed because it exaggerates the role of only one instrument of American power—the military. This has occurred in part because the military is so effective at what it does. Yet if you think all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.
John Edwards realizes that our counterterrorism toolbox is full of useful tools, and not all of them are hammers. Here's a quote from his op-ed yesterday:
Additionally, I will strengthen our effort to shut down global terrorism by improving human intelligence through 1,000 new annual scholarships to improve language skills for students who pursue careers in intelligence and diplomacy. I will also bolster support for foreign counterterrorism, and create a Global Nuclear Compact to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And I will lead an international effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
As someone who was played during my high school years with regular horrible nightmares about nuclear war, I strongly applaud John Edwards for speaking out on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons. Here's what he said about this during the Iowa debate in August:
As Tom P. pointed out in his diary earlier today, Edwards has been in favor of eliminating nuclear weapons for quite some time.
Edwards would also work to make sure that nuclear materials and chemical weapons materials do not fall into the hands of terrorists. Here is what he said about that in his speech at Pace University:
There is no more urgent task than preventing terrorists from acquiring a nuclear weapon or another weapon of mass destruction. And we will all be better off when the world is free of nuclear weapons.
Diplomacy is key to progress against nuclear weapons. The recent agreement with North Korea to shut down their nuclear programs in exchange for the release of frozen assets is long overdue, but encouraging. It is telling that the few successes of the Bush Administration come from the diplomacy it has derided.
As president, I will create a Global Nuclear Compact to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would support peaceful nuclear programs, improve security for existing stocks of nuclear materials, and ensure more frequent verification that materials are not being diverted and facilities are not being misused. And I will lead an international effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
Our chemical plants are also targets for terrorists. A successful attack on any of these targets would be devastating. Because of industry pressure, new watered-down security rules imposed by the Bush Administration may actually weaken security at many chemical plants. I support implementing tough new safety standards at plants vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Edwards also recognizes that if we want to stop terrorist organizations from recruiting new members, we need to lift up and empower the youth of the world and keep them from feeling oppressed and disenfranchised. Improving the way we treat others throughout the world, and helping to solve the problem of global poverty, will go a long way toward inspiring admiration of America, not hatred. The following quote is from his op-ed yesterday:
We also should have a broader, deeper goal - to prevent terrorism from taking root in the first place. Several months ago, I proposed a sweeping effort to eliminate the poverty and instability that create the conditions for extremism. My plan includes increasing our funding for global primary education, expanding microfinance programs, ramping up our support for sanitation and preventive health care in developing nations, and promoting constitutional democracies and the rule of law across the developing world. I will also establish a "Marshall Corps," patterned after the military reserves, that will include at least 10,000 civilian experts who will be deployed abroad to serve on reconstruction, stabilization, and humanitarian missions.
The campaign against terrorism will demand strength and creativity. Generations of Americans have risen to meet the challenges of their time. They toughed out the Great Depression, defeated Nazism and won the Cold War. Now, our generation must rise to meet the threat of global terrorism, relying not only on innovative strategies designed for the 21st century, but on the courage and vision that have always defined America.
I think he sums up his overall strategy quite well in this video, recorded in Birmingham, Alabama on September 30th by YouTube member mooncatsvid.
I think that John Edwards is on the right track with his multipronged approach to counterterrorism. I'm quite sure that I will sleep better at night knowing he is in the Oval Office.