Solutions to U.S. Security Threats in 2013

How the United States can prepare for threats from Iran, North Korea, and al Qaeda.

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This file image originally supplied by Marvel Comics, shows comic book hero Captain America from the Ultimates universe. The venerable superhero is killed in the issue of his namesake comic that hit stands Wednesday, March 7, 2007, the New York Daily News reported. On the new edition's pages, a sniper shoots down the shield-wielding hero as he leaves a courthouse, according to the newspaper.

Dr. Lamont Colucci is an associate professor of politics at Ripon College, recent Fulbright Scholar to the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, and author of The National Security Doctrines of the American Presidency: How they Shape our Present and Future, among other books. You can find out more at lamontcolucci.com.

Last week this column addressed the threats to the Republic for 2013 with a promise to address solutions to those threats this week. This week's column should not be read in a vacuum as the detailed aspects of threats were illustrated in last week's commentary. Based on a two volume book I recently authored on national security doctrines, the solutions to these threats must be tackled from both a historical and contemporary lens; these solutions must fundamentally serve American grand strategy.

1. Al Qaeda and terrorism. A national security doctrine that does not attempt to gain victory at a strategic level, well beyond the tactics of counterterrorism, is doomed to failure. The strategy must be one that uses the full power of the U.S. military, intelligence services, covert operations, and the soft power of democracy-building, economic aid, and a massive effort to counter the hate-driven propaganda. The debate over whether enemy combatants should be a designation should also end, as these terrorists are neither criminals nor prisoners of war and must be dealt with using military tribunals. The United States should push the United Nations to adopt this policy as part of international law, codifying international norms that clearly state that terrorists and pirates do not receive the treatments of prisoners of war or criminals. Further, the United States should have a declared policy that any nation linked to providing any aspect of weapons of mass destruction to a terrorist group will be treated as an act of war. In the end, any future president must treat this as a real war, and not a conflict or a law enforcement exercise.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Afghanistan.]

2. Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq, whose geostrategic value is immeasurable, can and must be one of the linchpins in any future U.S. Middle East policy. There must be a permanent and lasting commitment to the Iraqi people that demonstrates that the United States will not tolerate Sunni terrorists, Shiite militias, or the machinations of Iran. Obama's strategy in Afghanistan was predicated on greater European involvement, but the Europeans are extremely suspicious of this and have already followed the leader in announcing troop withdrawals in Afghanistan. The American surge was followed by the declaration of withdrawal. The United States, in classic Nixonian fashion, is ready to abandon another ally and let another region succumb to terror in order to satisfy a lack of geostrategic and historical understanding. The long-term strategic goal of the United States must be to destroy the Taliban, establish law and order, and bring stability to Afghanistan. This will be the only way to ensure that American credibility is respected, and the al Qaeda-Taliban axis cannot use Afghanistan as a terrorist haven.

3. The Arab Spring. The United States must take the strategic lead and be seen to be the greatest supporter of these people. The "leading from behind" mentality of watching from the sidelines with hopefulness has been an abject failure. The United States risks a worse world than the dictators if it fails to lead forcefully.

4. Energy security. The United States will not tolerate any power or group that seeks to deny its people access to petroleum; the United States is prepared to use hard power if that denial occurs; the United States seeks favorable trade relations in energy based on free commerce; the United States will not sacrifice its interests or values for that access; the United States will support prodemocracy adherents and groups that wish to replace despotic petrocracies; the United States will enforce the Carter Doctrine and free navigation; the United States will combine alternative energy sources with the opening of all viable petroleum sources domestically. This must become a permanent and declared strategy, and it must be enforced.

[See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

5. Primacy. This not only means maintaining, and most likely expanding, the 11 Carrier Task Forces, but all branches of the military, intelligence, and even diplomatic services. The stability of the international relations system is entirely dependent on U.S. military primacy and the Pax Americana. It must be the permanent strategy of the United States to ensure this primacy continues and expands. Linked to primacy is the development and deployment of a multilayered national missile defense that should ultimately cover our allies. There must also be permanence to the American way of war and a resurrection of the Weinberger Doctrine concerning overwhelming force. American national security at home, during violent riots and looting, and abroad, during war, is served best by swift and massive force. This always results in lower casualties for both U.S. troops and civilians. There are two immediate ways this can occur. The first is to stop any attempt to reduce the defense budget to dangerously low levels. The defense budget must be based not on bean counting but on the grand strategy of the United States designed to protect American vital and national interests. This should be a bipartisan and immediate commitment. The second way is a reinvigoration of the U.S. space program under the auspices of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This primarily revolves around the resurrection of manned space flight exploration and a realization that primacy and any future military conflicts will be won by the nation that realizes that a new strategic navalism will be in space: space weapons, space defense, spacecraft, and, ultimately, platforms and bases. The nation that fails to do this will be entirely at the mercy of those nations that achieve space dominance. The evolution and history of military technology, whether it was the longbow, the cannon, the rifle, the tank, or the aircraft carrier, has proved this for five thousand years.

6. Rogue regimes. Iran: The United States must make a permanent and declared policy that it will not tolerate any further development of its nuclear or missile program and that unless Iran reverses its terror strategy, America will consider it an act of war and act accordingly. The United States should be prepared to call on the successful implementation of the Truman, Reagan, and Bush Doctrines to destabilize the regime, use covert operations, prepare for the use of hard power, and assist the prodemocracy elements of Iran with more than rhetoric. Iran can be made to pay a high price for its recalcitrance with the use of American hard power that has nothing to do with the use of conventional ground troops. The Reagan years proved the efficiency of these policies.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Iran.]

North Korea: The spotlight of the international community and the United States are on North Korea's illegal and immoral nuclear weapons program. However, sunlight must be placed on the North Korean gulag. Pivotal to American strategy and inherent to American values is the destruction of these camps by covert and overt means. The United States must make a permanent and declared policy that seeks to remove the North Korean totalitarian regime; declare that any further missile tests will be treated as an aggressive act; stop, by any means necessary, its nuclear program; assist elements in South and North Korea that seek liberation; and prepare concrete plans to assist South Korea in eventual reunification in an effort to avoid one of the potentially worst humanitarian disasters with refugees ever seen. If there are regimes and leaders that are diametrically opposed to American values and interests, these would be Iran and North Korea. We have been in a state of war with both, and it is time that our grand strategy reflects that fact. This war may never require the use of American ground troops.

7. Destabilization of Japan and Mexico. Japan: American grand strategy in the Pacific is predicated on the security alliance with Japan, and Japan's only sense of stability comes from the same. The United States must reinforce and make permanent the clear and unambiguous relationship and alliance with Tokyo where there is jointness to American and Japanese interests.

Mexico: There must be a clear policy toward the Mexican government that the United States will not tolerate the violence and chaos created by Mexican drug cartels. The United States must offer the Mexican government the tools to break the back of the cartels or do the job itself. The current policy of muddling through has produced increased death and violence on both sides of the border and threatens the very existence of a viable Mexican government.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Middle East.]

8. Israel and Palestine. There must be a permanent and continuous policy for the support of Israel, and terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and states like Iran and Syria must be put on notice that an attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on American interests. Further, any support of Palestinian aspirations must be predicated on peace with Israel, recognition of Israel, and the development of Palestinian democracy and civil society. Objective analysts have known for years that the Arab states do not care about the fate of the Palestinians, but it has served the interests of propaganda and domestic consumption. American grand strategy is best served when there is a vibrant democratic civil society for both Israelis and Palestinians.

9. Crisis of confidence in Europe. The most important alliance to the United States is NATO, and NATO requires dynamic American leadership. There must be a reinvigoration of our relations with Europe, with greater integration of security and economics. Western Europe faces, in many ways, a much starker threat of Islamic extremism, and there must be common cause to promote Western values. This cannot happen when America talks more of burden sharing and less of leading. In Eastern Europe, this is even more critical; it was the United States that engineered the expansion of NATO eastward, and now it is America's responsibility to protect that trust. The people of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic know the price they have paid under the tyranny of Nazis and Communists, and they know that part of that was a betrayal by the Western powers. There must be an unambiguous policy that the grand strategy of the United States includes these people under all conditions.

[See 2012: The Year in Cartoons.]

10. Resurgent Russia and rise of China. Russia: The United States cannot accept the concept of the "near abroad," granting to Russia the ability to treat sovereign states like Georgia as playthings. It must decide to build a defensive missile system based on its own national security, not on relations with Russia. It must treat any attempt to support rogue regimes as an act of aggression, and it must not forget the state of human rights inside of Russia.

China: China must be made to realize that free trade must be fair trade or no trade at all. It does not get a blind eye for its massive human rights violations and should be put on notice that any attempt to use the modernization of its military to threaten American primacy in the Pacific will be treated as an aggressive act. The continued Chinese support of regimes like Iran and Sudan has not gone unnoticed, and there should be no ambiguity about the United States supporting Taiwan. The crux of all 10 threats is the need for declared, unambiguous policy that serves a clear grand strategy. Next week this column will outline that grand strategy in broad terms.

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