- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003

It is no longer trite to say the world is a very dangerous place. We have far less control over our security today than we did at the height of the Cold War. Our sworn enemies are fanatics, mostly ignorant and politically backward. And they hate us. They will seek ever more destructive weapons to inflict their terror on us. When they get these weapons, and they will, they will use them against us here at home and against our interests overseas.

While there always will be political debates about whether to use force, we should continue to knock down these irrational and inherently dangerous enemies, wherever they are. Because they have sworn to fight us to the death, there really isn’t a choice — in more basic terms, it’s either them or us. In this respect, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said recently in a TV interview that “we can’t just go around attacking people.” This suggests Mrs. Albright is not yet in receipt of the message sent to us on September 11, 2001. There will be other messages, unfortunately.

Again, and in more basic terms, we must “shoot the messenger” where he lives or he will shoot us where we live. However, we should not, in most of these situations, plan to keep forces on the ground to “settle” the postcombat environment. There will prove little to be gained by such ventures; in fact, it may be to our security advantage to allow the postconflict situation in certain regions to remain in chaos for a time. Let them dissipate their anger and resources by killing each other in the struggle for power; this is more like a gang war than anything else, and we should both encourage and contain it in certain regions.

If what emerges is again a threat to us, we should again take the leadership down and be prepared to repeat this whenever necessary — in other words, we should have a very low threshold for going back in and removing dangerous successor regimes.

On the other hand, if there is real promise for rational and reasonably responsible leadership, we should support it in more traditional ways, but only so long as it is prepared to behave responsibly.

Hopefully, there will be learning taken from this practice, and emerging or aspirant leaders will determine it is in their best interests to comply with international law rather than be terrorists.

What regions of the world are inherently dangerous to the United States?

The exploitation — and exportation — of hate in and from the Middle East has reached potentially catastrophic levels.

The issues will not be settled as long as there are active supporters of terror in the region. In fact, the current regimes in Syria and Iran will most probably have to change before there can be significant peace in the Middle East and a reduction in associated terrorism worldwide.

A leadership change in Syria would have a dramatic effect in the region and on U.S. security worldwide.

Iran is particularly dangerous because they are very close to having a military nuclear capability — they have developed it in secret, but, much like the Indians and Pakistanis did a few years ago, they will probably test their weapon openly, hoping for the same response — acquiescence. Under its present leadership, however, Iran cannot be expected to be a “rational” nuclear power and will certainly confront us.

We have a clear choice with Iran; like a familiar advertising slogan, we can either “pay them now or pay them later.”

An even more immediate and dangerous situation may be in Saudi Arabia: The ruling family has yet to demonstrate it can act effectively to take down its internal radicals and hatemongers, whom it has supported with money and sanctuary for many years. This is no longer an issue of public relations for the royal family or sovereignty for Saudi Arabia — it is an urgent issue of self-defense for the United States.

It really doesn’t matter whether the Saudi government is knowingly supporting radicals or just clueless and incompetent — either is unacceptably dangerous for us. Our 60-year relationship with the Saudis must change dramatically.

North Korea, a rogue nation with nuclear weapons, is perhaps the most dangerous and backward country in the world. In addition to threatening to test nuclear weapons, they are talking about nuclear “deterrence” as they seek to ensnare the U.S. in negotiations like those that created the 1994 “framework agreement” — probably the most naive and dangerous security agreement ever negotiated by the U.S.

While negotiation on these issues with the North Koreans is still not a good idea, we should take them up on the deterrence idea (i.e., deterring them) and motivate others in the region to change the regime in North Korea. We could do this by:

(1) Reintroducing a very effective, and precisely targeted nuclear force in the region.

(2) And beginning plans to remove U.S. forces from the Korean Peninsula.

This would get the attention of the South Koreans, who are engaged in a lot of American flag burning these days — and give the Japanese reason to build nuclear weapons. This, in turn, would get the attention of the Chinese, who would see it in their interest to change the regime in North Korea.

In fact, a real possibility of a Japanese nuclear capability might improve the stability of the region for the longer term. For the very long term, a nuclear Japan is probably unavoidable and may even be essential for the security of the United States.

While we cannot turn back the clock with regard to the Middle East and North Korea, the civilized world no longer can afford the time required for responsible political evolution in many inherently dangerous and unsettled regions of the world. In effect, such areas have temporarily lost their right to self-determination and status as sovereign nations. While they can get these essential tenets of statehood back, they have to first demonstrate they will behave like responsible nation-states.

Unconventional ideas perhaps, but look where more “traditional” security policy has gotten us. As Dr. Phil says: “How’s that working for you?”

Daniel J. Gallington is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for territorial security and a former deputy counsel for intelligence policy at the Justice Department. He is a senior research fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington. These are his personal views.