Two years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there are two leading evaluations of the Bush Administration’s “war on terrorism.” One side, generally right-wing and supportive of the war, is optimistic about its progress, and regards Bush as heroic. The other side, generally left-wing and anti-war, is pessimistic about the war’s prospects, warning of “quagmires” and pending terrorist attacks. Patriots for the Defense of America takes a third view: it supports a principled war against America’s enemies, but maintains that the progress of this war has been dangerously slow.
In this report card, we will identify the major security threats facing the United States, and the extent to which the Bush administration has successfully confronted them (with an emphasis on the second, most recent year of the war). Contrary to the leading pro-war voices, we will find that on many important fronts, American policy is failing miserably. Contrary to those who characterize America’s war as overly aggressive or unilateral, we will argue that the war has hardly begun. And contrary to those who argue that war is anathema to morality, we will argue that at root, the American reluctance to commit fully to war stems from a failure of moral clarity.
Patriots for the Defense of America holds that the first obligation of government is to protect the lives and security of its own citizens. When–as now–America faces terrorist and nuclear threats, this obligation requires the use of immediate and overwhelming force against those individuals, organizations and governments who are the source of these threats. We hold that a free nation has a sovereign right and moral obligation to defend itself, with or without the sanction of international opinion. To exercise this right, it must refuse to negotiate with or grant the demands of dictators and terrorists. The Administration’s foreign policy has so far failed to uphold these obligations. It has failed to oppose the greatest threats facing American security. It has sought instead to appease the governments posing the greatest threats. And it has abdicated sovereign American decision making power, in favor of the arbitrary dictates of international “authorities.”
While this evaluation is in the form of a report card, merely passing grades are not sufficient. Success or failure in foreign policy is not simply a matter of social or economic progress: the lives of countless American citizens are at stake–as is, perhaps, the very survival of American civilization. The report card format permits us to rank and compare different elements of the Bush track record. But even though we assign a full range of grades, in a certain sense the grade is pass/fail: either the American government takes all measures necessary to protect its citizens, or it defaults on this responsibility. So even though we assign a “D+” average, there is a real sense in which Bush policies are failing.
To identify the strengths and weaknesses of Bush policy, our grades are be divided into categories based on the major theaters of military operation, and the major areas of policy directing them. First we survey the “hot war”: America’s efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where American forces have faced direct combat with our enemies. Second, we examine the new “cold war”: American relations with countries such as Iran and North Korea, which represent the most serious threats to American security, but which the United States has so far failed to confront openly and militarily. We then examine the “breeding grounds” of America’s enemies: countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, whose governments, while not openly hostile to American interests, nonetheless negligently fail to suppress hostile forces arming and training within their own borders. We then single out for evaluation America’s policies toward a crucial friend: Israel. Having exhausted areas of concern by geography, we end with larger macro-level issues: evaluations of America’s military deployment and readiness, and its approach toward international law and diplomacy.
America’s Failing War Effort: The Hot War
At first, American mobilization in Afghanistan and Iraq appears to be very impressive. The feat of removing two threatening, dictatorial governments in the space of so little time, while sustaining so few American casualties, was truly unprecedented. And about this we can be sure: America’s fighting men and women have, through their courage and efficacy, proved their irreplaceable worth and earned the rightful gratitude of the American people.
Nevertheless we regret to report that while American military forces have executed their missions admirably, the targets of their missions have been irresponsibly selected by the Bush administration. Further, even to the extent that these targets were worth pursuing, the Bush administration unnecessarily restrained the efforts of American troops, making dangerous concessions to principles inconsistent with the moral obligations of government.
For these reasons, we assign the Bush administration a C for our “hot war” category. This is tied for the highest grade it receives in any of our categories, and only because here the United States has taken some action in defense of its interests. But some action is not enough, and a C is still a C.