America's Purpose Conference Blog
September 6, 2005 - 10:23am ET
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Today I'm attending the New America Foundation's Terrorism, Security & America's Purpose conference at the Capitol Hilton. It's Steve Clemons' show and a fitting beginning to the fall season here in Washington.
The challenge of this conference was summed up well by Jim Steinberg of the Brookings Institution. He asked whether we are asking the right question when it comes to our national security strategy.
Steinberg said we must look at how the U.S. acts in the world—that thus far, we have not asked the right questions when it comes to the post-9/11 world. That, until we deal with the deeper issues that cause the major problems and threats we face, we are not going to have a strategy that secures our real national security interests.
Most of the first panel said as much. A few spoke as if they were asking the right questions and were not affected by Steinberg's challenge.
But the worst offense was Joe Biden's affirmation of George Bush's grand strategy. As I write this, he's still speaking, but he opened with the idea that the two priorities of the United States are, first, to win the struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism. (Indeed, he is praising Bush now.) Second, he wants to keep WMD out of the hands of terrorists. In his search for common ground, Biden is blinded to the larger issues facing America.
It was clear Biden was going to parrot the Bush-lite concepts laid out by Peter Beinart last December as he begins to run for president. But now he has formally embraced it, and it looks like the Democrats are going to be in for quite a pre-election debate. I'll write more after the next session, but I hope, for the republic, that Biden is open to listening to folks like Steinberg—who was brave enough to say he and others had it wrong.
Update: 11:15 AM
Robert Pape just dropped a bombshell on the conference, arguing that it was American military policy in the Muslim world that led to 9/11. Of course, the 9/11 Commission said as much, but it said so quietly.
Thinking about what just preceded this, Joe Biden's embrace of the Bush Doctrine, I sit wondering if we are about to witness a real split in the American political system. Those who are willing to accept Pape's analysis and deal with root causes like Steinberg said...versus those who would rather try to continue to feed America's illusions.
Pape just did it again. He's reading from an Al Qaeda strategy document written in 2003 that explains the Al Qaeda strategy and shows that their motive and intent are aligned: to get Western forces out of the Muslim world, stripping us of our allies.
Now he's taking it the next step. He's arguing that we need to rethink how we secure our regional interests in the Gulf. I'd argue that we need to rethink our interests completely, but this is the interim step. Now it's out there.
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