President Bush got one thing right: The greatest threat to American security is a rogue state providing a terrorist group with a weapon of mass destruction and the means to deliver it in the United States. Unfortunately, almost everything he has done since September 11 has made this problem worse rather than better. We need new policies, new approaches and new institutions to reduce this risk.
The Bush administration took positive steps immediately following 9-11 that should be built upon. It went to the United Nations Security Council, worked collaboratively with the other permanent members and the entire council, and secured passage of a set of resolutions requiring states to take steps to curb international terrorism. The UN also established mechanisms for international cooperation in dealing with terrorist threats. Acting under the authority of Security Council resolutions, the United States intervened militarily in Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda bases of operation and remove the Taliban from power.
Things have gone downhill since then. If our goal is, as it should be, to reduce the risk that international terrorists will acquire true weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, we are most certainly moving in the wrong direction. The immediate post-9-11 impulse to work through the UN and to strengthen universal norms and means for their enforcement has given way to unilateral policies, an emphasis on force rather than legitimacy and an effort to impose rules on others that we refuse to abide by ourselves. The initial post-9-11 focus on addressing the immediate threats abroad -- the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups with a global reach -- while revamping security at home has given way to a preoccupation with Iraq and confrontations with the other members of what the president called the "axis of evil."
At home, with the exception of the hastily developed and poorly executed plan to cobble together a Department of Homeland Security, the administration has resisted efforts to create the new organizations required to deal effectively with this new threat. Moreover, we have failed to respect civil liberties at home, and by our example and our entreaties have encouraged other governments to take repressive steps that can only breed more terrorism in the long run.
A brief review of what we have done over the past two years provides a basis for determining what needs to be done from this point forward to make us safer.
Global Cooperation Against International Terrorism Some progress has been made to enhance cooperation on intelligence sharing and money laundering; likewise, many countries have acted against groups on an agreed list of terrorist organizations. The administration has not, however, continued to provide leadership. It has jeopardized cooperation on international terrorism, first by its unilateral actions in Iraq and now by arguing that cooperation there is the test of whether other governments are with us in the fight against terrorism.
Afghanistan What we have done in Afghanistan is a metaphor for all that has gone wrong. In the beginning, this wasn't so. The administration rightly recognized that we needed to destroy the terrorist base camps and send a signal to the rest of the world that we would not tolerate a regime that gave protection to those plotting terrorism against innocent civilians. We used decisive military force to accomplish these objectives, and worked effectively through the United Nations to put in place a new Afghan government committed to democracy and to playing a responsible role in the world.
However, we have failed to follow through, and, as a result, Afghanistan is on the cusp of chaos and could easily become a place where terrorists once again operate with impunity. We are also in danger of sending the signal to the rest of the world that cooperation with the United States ends in havoc, and that we cannot be counted on to meet our commitments.
American military forces have focused single-mindedly on confronting the remaining elements of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In doing so, they have allied with regional warlords but declined to provide security for the legitimate Afghan government. The UN has filled this vacuum with a separate military force, which is providing security in Kabul but whose expansion into the rest of the country the United States has opposed. Additionally, we are providing only a fraction of the necessary economic assistance to Afghanistan. The administration has belatedly proposed increased aid for Afghanistan, but at nowhere near the country's estimated immediate need.
North Korea Although the president did not link North Korea to Iraq and Iran in the mythical axis of evil until after 9-11, his North Korea policy from the beginning was counterproductive to the goal of keeping terrorists from getting weapons of mass destruction from rogue states. North Korea should have been a primary focus of any such strategy after September 11. It is developing both missiles and nuclear weapons, and already has a large arsenal of chemical weapons. It has also demonstrated a willingness to proliferate them, selling missiles to all comers and cooperating with Pakistan on nuclear programs. For the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, this is not a matter of ideology or religion. It is developing missiles and nuclear weapons pragmatically, both for its defense plans and to sell for badly needed foreign exchange.
As the Clinton administration came to an end, Washington was engaged in comprehensive negotiations with Pyongyang. The United States was seeking an end to the North Korean nuclear and missile programs, and the North Koreans were seeking to get off our terrorism list and receive assurances that we would not attack them with nuclear or conventional forces. No one could be sure that the negotiations would succeed, but there was considerable belief that North Korea was serious. It had invited President Clinton to visit and had suspended long-range-missile tests. We had not yet reached the critical stage in negotiations -- when it would have become clear what price North Korea would ask for giving up all nuclear weapons and long-range missiles with an effective verification regime -- when George W. Bush took over. Instead of continuing the process to find out, he simply terminated the negotiations.
The Bush administration further exacerbated the North Korean problem by proclaiming a doctrine of preemption when it came to Iraq's nuclear program. One did not have to be a trained intelligence analyst to predict that this would lead North Korea (as well as Iran) to accelerate efforts to get nuclear weapons before the United States was ready to attack.
Iraq There is not the space here to detail all the mistakes that the administration made in going into Iraq. But on the specific issue of whether the attack helped our efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, it most certainly failed. It is hard to recall now that this was the specific rationale Bush gave for why we could not give the UN inspectors more time, and why we could not wait to see if we could get Security Council support before using force in Iraq.
In fact, we now know that there was no basis for such assertions. The intelligence community warned correctly that an attack would increase the risks that Iraq would aid terrorists, and that it was far from having nuclear weapons or other true weapons of mass destruction with delivery systems capable of reaching American targets.
The result is that we have "succeeded" in bringing the war against terrorism to Iraq. American military and civilians are in Iraq and difficult to protect. The borders are open so that members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups can infiltrate the country and operate fluidly once there. Every day more Iraqis come to feel that the use of force against Americans is justified. Moreover, this is not a conventional war where fighting hostile forces in Iraq keeps them from attacking Americans at home or around the world. Contrary to the president's assertion, what is now happening in Iraq under U.S. occupation makes it more, not less, likely that terrorists will try to attack Americans elsewhere around the globe.
What's more, the staggering cost of the Iraq operation, which the administration has finally owned up to after months of obfuscation, means that we will not have the funds to fight terrorism effectively elsewhere in the world or to take the necessary steps to guard our borders and increase the capacity of first responders.
One of the reasons that projected costs are so high in Iraq is that we are using American military forces to carry out peacekeeping functions for which they are not equipped and paying more for them than trained peacekeepers would cost. An administration that came into office avowedly against nation building could not have been expected to consider how it should prepare to perform such functions. What remains unclear to this day, however, is why the administration did not seek help in its preparations for running Iraq, at best before, or at the very least following, the war. America and Iraq are now paying a heavy price for that lack of preparation.
Domestic Security While we seek to destroy terrorist groups abroad and reduce the conditions that would permit them to recruit and to train around the world, we should also be working to ferret out terrorist activity, prevent the introduction of weapons of mass destruction and increase our capacity to respond to terrorist attacks at home. That is not happening. An administration that believes that the best way to deter suicide bombers is to threaten them with the death penalty cannot be expected to get this homeland strategy right. Beginning with the so-called USA PATRIOT Act, John Ashcroft's Department of Justice has proceeded from the assumption that acquiring more power to conduct surveillance here, doing so with less supervision from federal judges, and eliminating legal barriers to sharing information between intelligence and law-enforcement agencies are central to reducing terrorist threats. Every outside group that has studied this problem, however, argues that our real focus must be on changing the culture of the FBI and the CIA while simultaneously working to strengthen our border protections -- starting with the inspection of incoming cargoes for radioactive material. Little if any progress toward those goals has been made, and America is less safe for it today.
What is to be done?
I start with the assumption that institutions do not easily adapt to new tasks. Hence, when we confront a fundamentally new task, we need to consider whether new institutions with their own career services and raisons d'être would better serve than shifting around the same old structures. This is why the Air Force and the CIA came into being during the Cold War, and why the Special Forces Command was created by Congress in 1986 to give support to the Green Berets and other special units capable of acting quickly and with stealth. Urgently needed today are institutions to combat international terrorism and to deal with the problems that follow a military intervention in a failed state such as Iraq. Getting these two tasks right is critical to reducing the risk that terrorists will get weapons of mass destruction from rogue states.
At the moment, the task of dealing with international terrorist groups is split between the FBI and CIA, with the new Homeland Security Department playing some role in reviewing intelligence and protecting our borders. The FBI is assigned to do both intelligence and law enforcement at home, as well as law enforcement abroad through the investigation of terrorist acts directed at Americans. The CIA has responsibility for intelligence gathering abroad. There is little sign that either agency has changed in any meaningful way since 9-11, or that they have learned to share information effectively.
What is needed is a new agency that has both law-enforcement and intelligence functions at home and abroad, but whose jurisdiction is limited to dealing with international terrorist groups targeting Americans. When dealing with such terrorists, there is no meaningful distinction between intelligence and law enforcement, as al-Qaeda and other such groups operate within a complex and well-financed global network. Such a U.S. agency would focus exclusively on them wherever they are, aiming both to indict potential terrorists as criminals and to prevent terrorist acts. Putting the law-enforcement and intelligence functions in one agency under a specific mandate would also increase the likelihood that civil liberties would be respected. This new agency would be the clearinghouse for information on this small number of terrorist groups. It would cooperate with the FBI and the CIA in a cross-jurisdictional relationship no different from that which the FBI already shares with other agencies such as the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives.
At the same time, we also need a new agency for nation building. In Iraq -- as in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti and East Timor -- the collapse of the existing authority created an immediate need for an international police force to provide stability and to help create an indigenous police force and criminal-justice system. There are also urgent humanitarian problems, including the need to capture evidence of human-rights violations so that accountability and healing can begin. Over and over we find that neither the American government nor the international community possesses an agency explicitly dedicated to these tasks. So we rely on our military to perform tasks for which it has no training and capability; it does it reluctantly and poorly and comes away more reluctant than ever to intervene in similar situations. The message we are sending in Iraq is that we will act whenever our interests are threatened, but will not stick around to sort through the messy aftermath of our interventions.
We need to create a new civilian agency reporting to the secretary of state (and perhaps lodged in the same structure as the present USAID) that would be explicitly charged with this set of tasks, endowed with the necessary resources and mandated to plan as intensively as the military before we intervene. It would be critical to create a robust, standby police capability with a small, permanent staff and a larger number of reservists who, like those in the military reserves and National Guard, would train on weekends and over the summer and be sent abroad in times of crisis to carry out police functions. Other parts of the agency would focus on training indigenous forces, which could be done in advance with nationals who are outside of their home countries.
In addition to creating these two new domestic agencies, we need to work with other nations through the UN Security Council to consolidate and invigorate an international regime designed to deter states from developing weapons of mass destruction and providing them to terrorist groups. This regime must be global, and the rules must apply to all nations, not simply those the United States designates as rogue or "evil." Nuclear weapons in the hands of Pakistan, which has shared technology with North Korea, must be just as unacceptable as Iranian nuclear weapons.
The United States for its part, must accept the same rules as apply to every other state. This doesn't mean that we should renounce our nuclear arsenal, which has important deterrent value, but it does mean that we must renounce the resort to threatening other states with nuclear weapons. We have already signed international treaties committing us to not using chemical and biological weapons. But it is with regard to nuclear weapons that more fundamental changes in the American posture are required. The United States not only asserts the right to maintain nuclear weapons while demanding that most other states give up this option, it also asserts the right to use its nuclear weapons whenever it determines that to be in its national interest.
This must change. The United States must lead the way away from, not toward, a nuclear world. One step would be for America to organize its defenses around the undeniable fact that we can deal with any threat other than the nuclear one using our conventional forces. The United States will spend more on defense next year than all of the other nations of the world combined. No potential enemy can survive for any period against our conventional forces. As we showed in Iraq, we can defeat a conventional army with overwhelming firepower while incurring minimal casualties.
We also must confront the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs by strengthening existing anti-nuclear regimes. The first step is for the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to renounce any efforts to develop new nuclear weapons. We must join with the other nuclear powers in swearing off first use of nuclear weapons. We must lead an effort in the UN Security Council to provide credible guarantees to states that renounce nuclear weapons and open themselves to full and effective inspections.
In dealing with the North Korean problem, the United States must first recognize, as China seems finally to have done, that if we are to unite the world in insisting that the Pyongyang regime not test a nuclear device we must be willing to renounce such tests ourselves and work relentlessly to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into existence. We should also propose a treaty creating a nuclear-free zone that includes at least Japan and the Korean peninsula. That pact would also commit the six powers now in talks not to use nuclear weapons against one another, and to come to one another's aid if there were a nuclear threat.
Finally, the United States must recognize that we need the cooperation of the rest of the world to bring rogue states back into the community of nations, to help failed states mend so that they do not become havens for terrorists, and to build a more open and just world so that states do not become breeding grounds for terrorism. This begins by accepting that the UN Security Council must have the lead role in helping Iraqis to regain control of their own country, by working cooperatively with other states to find solutions to security problems, and by assisting nations that are seeking to establish democracy and reduce the suffering of their peoples. This will require substantial resources, but we could triple the amount we now spend on such efforts and it would still be less than the $87 billion we are now proposing to spend on Iraq. This will also demand a willingness on the part of the United States to adopt a more humble approach to the rest of the world, by identifying and helping to enforce just rules that apply to all.
None of this argument is based on altruism. It is a straightforward claim that the administration's policies to date have failed to make us safer, and that a new approach is more likely than the path we are now on to prevent rogue states from sharing true weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery with terrorists who would wish us harm.