- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

If the conventional wisdom is correct, today’s presidential election will be tightly contested and ultimately decided by voters’ concerns about winning the war against terrorists bent on our destruction. If the second indeed proves to be uppermost in American voters’ minds, however, this should not be a close election at all.

In truth, John Kerry is woefully ill-equipped to wage this war. To be sure, he served in the military in Vietnam. His experience as a junior officer 35 years ago would be more of a credential for the role of commander in chief had he not spent virtually every moment subsequently disqualifying himself — and doing so in ways directly relevant to today’s struggle.

For example, upon leaving Vietnam, Mr. Kerry made himself a leader of the effort to divide and demoralize the American people, allowing the North Vietnamese to win on our home front what they could not achieve on the battlefield. To this day, museums in Communist Vietnam reportedly pay tribute to the contribution the future presidential candidate made to the North’s victory.

Regrettably, Mr. Kerry’s current political ambitions have caused him to reprise this antiwar role in his current bid for the White House. In doing so, he has fed expectations at home that, if elected, he will bring the troops home from “the wrong war” in Iraq. He has once again emboldened our adversaries to believe they will prevail over an America that lacks the moral convictions or will to vanquish them.

While Mr. Kerry and his running mate John Edwards glibly talk about how much they “support the troops” even as they demean their mission and leadership, such behavior can only have a negative effect on the armed forces’ morale and performance. In a deeply moving — and nonpartisan — address to the Center for Security Policy last month, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, observed that the one thing the troops want to know as they put themselves in harm’s way for their nation is: “Are the American people behind us?” Mr. Kerry must take no small responsibility for imparting the impression that nearly half the country is not.

Apart from an allusion now and then to his “35 years of foreign policy experience,” John Kerry has been astonishingly taciturn about his 20-year record on defense programs, intelligence matters and foreign affairs in the U.S. Senate. This is because it is a virtually unbroken record on votes that mattered (as opposed to his willingness to join virtually everyone else in supporting final passage of defense spending bills) reflecting a left-wing ideology at odds with sensible Cold War strategies. Mr. Kerry’s instincts are no better suited to the dangerous strategic environment that emerged in the wake of that previous, global struggle.

Based upon this record, a President Kerry’s idea of a “smarter war” would be one in which, by his own admission, the “legitimacy” of America’s self-defensive actions would be determined by a “global test” — the decisive votes evidently cast by countries suborned by commercial ties, strategic relations or corrupt connections with our enemies. It would be one in which primacy would be accorded to international organizations and treaties over American sovereignty and freedom of action. And, as in the Clinton years, America’s foes like Iran and North Korea would be appeased and propped-up, not confronted.

Scarcely less comforting is the “new direction” Mr. Kerry would seemingly chart on the home front. Despite his mantra about making America “stronger at home,” if elected, he seems determined actually to weaken the nation in at least three ways:

(1) He would seek to dismantle parts of the Patriot Act. Although he has been somewhat coy about exactly what he would change in this critical piece of counterterrorism legislation, his pandering to interests like the American Civil Liberties Union will likely jeopardize the national interest in monitoring and countering enemies at home.

(2) Mr. Kerry has embraced the idea of an amnesty for illegal aliens, which would only compound our present vulnerabilities at home by ensuring further influxes of undocumented foreign nationals, including terrorists.

(3) Mr. Kerry has been one of the most ideologically committed opponents of missile defense, a capability becoming more necessary every day that he will prevent from being fully realized if elected president.

In each area, the voters are being offered a real choice. Since September 11, 2001, George W. Bush has evidenced an unwavering determination to prosecute the war against America’s terrorist foes with patience, determination and the necessary resources. He has appreciated that the terrorists’ state-sponsors must also be neutralized, not just terror cells and networks. He has demonstrated to our combat forces that their country is behind them, proud of their accomplishments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere and convinced the sacrifice they and their families make is not only worthy but absolutely necessary.

The one choice we are offered today, however, is an end to the war on terror. Whoever is president will have to wage it for the foreseeable future. If that reality is properly understood by the voters, there is little doubt who will be our commander in chief for the next four years.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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