Failure to win the peace in Iraq will make our successes in the war irrelevant. A stable Iraq with a strong U.S.-Iraq military-to-military relationship on par with our security relationship with South Korea is the end state we should pursue. "Normalization" of the Iraqi-U.S. relationship must not end it; we must take advantage of the opportunity for the United States to stabilize the Middle East through a strong Iraqi-U.S. bilateral relationship.
While President Obama seems to be continuing many of the "war on terror" policies of the Bush administration, his decision to close the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is fraught with risk and lacks strategic coherence. An executive order signed just after President Obama took office translates to a policy of moving detainees to the United States. Eight months later, the administration still lacks an implementation plan. The preoccupation with Gitmo's closure has distracted the president from the more pressing national security problem of how we ensure that detainees from Gitmo do not resurface on the battlefield. This should be priority No. 1—not figuring out which U.S. town should play host to the terrorists currently residing in Gitmo.
Finally, President Obama must make investments in future security. He should steer clear of the hollow defense budgets, peace dividends, and procurement holidays that ruled the Clinton era. We don't need a repeat of these shortsighted policies. In defense, as in anything else, you get what you pay for. The temptation to take dollars ordinarily reserved for defense to free up funds for domestic spending will ultimately come at the cost of our security.
The national security challenges before President Obama are clear. Our country's safety will hinge on the choices he will make as commander in chief. Congress and the American people will be watching closely.
Read an opposing view: Why Obama's pragmatic approach will improve national security, from Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat and member of the Select Committee on Intelligence and Armed Services Committee.