EXCLUSIVE: Shultz: Bush defense policy should stay

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NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW:

PALO ALTO, Calif.

Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz says President-elect Barack Obama should practice President Bush’s doctrine of pre-emptive defense against terrorism that has kept the country safe since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Shultz credited Mr. Bush with pushing “a controversial but important idea” he said has made the U.S. a harder target when other nations were being hit by terrorists.

“That is, that in this age where there are people who want to do damage to us through terrorist tactics, you want to be aggressive in trying to find out what might happen before it happens, and then stop it from happening; that is, take preventive action,” he said in an interview with The Washington Times in his office at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

“And that’s an uncomfortable idea for people, particularly when the act of prevention takes place in some other country. Even if it takes place in this country, it has its problems,” said Mr. Shultz, President Reagan’s secretary of state during a turbulent period of the Cold War that ended with an arms-control agreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Bush’s pre-emptive actions, including going to war to topple terrorist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, were also based in large part on electronic eavesdropping here and abroad on telephone and other electronic communications, sometimes without a federal court order, which drew strong opposition from civil liberties groups and his critics on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

Democrats, including Mr. Obama, were sharply critical of the administration’s sweeping global surveillance methods to tap into conversations with terrorist contacts in the U.S., sparking a congressional fight that delayed the program’s reauthorization until a compromise was passed earlier this year that gave Mr. Bush most of what he sought, including legal immunity from lawsuits for communication companies who cooperate with the government.

Mr. Obama has quipped that the Obama Doctrine is not going to be as “doctrinaire as the Bush Doctrine, because the world is complicated.”

“But I think that the basic concept - and I´ve heard it from some of the other folks - is that, increasingly, we have to view our security in terms of a common security and a common prosperity with other peoples and other countries,” Mr. Obama said during a National Public Radio debate in Iowa last winter.

“And that means that if there are children in the Middle East who cannot read, that is a potential long-term danger to us. If China is polluting, then eventually that is going to reach our shores. We have to - and work with them cooperatively to solve their problems, as well as ours.”

But Mr. Shultz said the country will be decidedly less safe if the new administration chooses a different approach.

“I think that’s an important idea, that if ignored will cause us harm. It’s something we have to stick with,” said Mr. Shultz, who advised Mr. Bush during his 2000 presidential bid and has long-time relationships with some of the president´s closest advisers.

Mr. Obama had been a staunch opponent of renewing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but in a series of flip-flops after he had clinched the Democratic nomination, said he supported the bill.

“The ability to monitor and track individuals who want to attack the United States is a vital counterterrorism tool, and I’m persuaded that it is necessary to keep the American people safe,” he said at the time.

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About the Author
Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is the chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, the author of five books and a nationally syndicated columnist. His twice-weekly United Feature Syndicate column appears in newspapers across the country, including The Washington Times. He received the Warren Brookes Award For Excellence In Journalism in 1995 and in that same year was the host and co-writer of ...

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