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  Global Viewpoint



U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and the ranking member of the Subcommittee on African Affairs.

By Russ Feingold

Washington I propose Dec. 31, 2006, as the target date for the completion of the U.S. military mission in Iraq and the honorable return home of American troops. I take this step because President George Bush has failed to articulate a clear vision of where we are going in Iraq, because this has led to a loss of confidence among the American people, and because this lack of clarity about America’s intentions has strengthened the insurgents responsible for so much brutality in Iraq.

I am concerned about the inappropriate role that Iraq is playing in what should be a much broader debate about America’s national security policies. We need to ensure that U.S. efforts in Iraq are consistent with fighting and defeating the terrorist network that attacked this country on Sept. 11, 2001, rather than letting Iraq dominate America’s security strategy and drain vital security resources for an unlimited amount of time.

We cannot make the mistake of believing that what happens in Iraq is the key to American national security. It is simply not true that fighting terrorists in Iraq means we will not have to fight them elsewhere; this “roach motel” approach to our country’s security would be laughable if it were not so terribly dangerous. Our commitment in Iraq is on the verge of destroying the all-volunteer Army, while at the same time it has become a major recruiting tool for terrorist networks. Tragically, our policy in Iraq is making the U.S. weaker and less safe while our enemies, in many ways, are becoming stronger.

The U.S. needs to do more than find a way to bring troops home from Iraq. It also needs new thinking and new energy devoted to a broader national security vision. This broader vision will enable us to create a safer world for our children and our grandchildren by:

Countering Terrorist Tactics — To start with, the Pentagon must focus the best minds in the country on how we can more effectively counter the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). We also need to break the cycle of indoctrination and incitement that begins with extremist schools, continues on Internet chat rooms and sometimes ends with a suicide attack.

Fighting Corruption — Extremists from Algeria to Indonesia to the Palestinian territories emphasize the “decadence” of those they seek to overthrow, tapping into public frustration with rampant corruption in government. And corrupt border guards and customs officials in other countries enable terrorist networks to operate. We need to recognize that corruption is a security issue, and we need a serious effort to combat it around the world.

Supporting Nuclear Nonproliferation — The U.S. must reverse the foolish decision to ease export restrictions on bomb-grade uranium, which was part of the massive energy bill just signed by President Bush. We should step up the administration’s half-hearted efforts to secure loose nukes. And we should work with allies to develop a new global effort to prevent countries from enjoying legal protections as they take their nuclear programs right up to the line of compliance, only to announce that they have developed nuclear weapons a short time later.

Investing in Public Diplomacy — American diplomatic presence abroad must be increased — not just to gather information, although that is critical, but also to make our public diplomacy effective. This effort must involve real dialogue, give and take, and a sustained effort to regain the special American power — our power as a nation to lead, to persuade and to inspire. This takes more than high-profile leadership; it also takes resources.

Promoting Energy Independence — Too often, our addiction to foreign oil influences our foreign policy and prompts us to choose short-term gains over long-term security interests. Why, then, hasn’t President Bush even proposed how to meet this great national challenge, and asked the Congress and the American people to support an unprecedented drive toward energy independence?

We need to make America stronger. We need real leadership on national security issues. That will start with finding a way to finish our militarys mission in Iraq but it certainly does not end there