- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2000

In 1980, Ronald Reagan reduced his challenge to then-President Jimmy Carter to a single question posed to the American people: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" As the polls showed that November, the answer was a resounding "No," resulting in a Reagan landslide and an historic mandate for change.
Two decades later, an equally pressing question must be asked of the American people: "Are you safer now than you were eight years ago?" Unfortunately, thanks to the legacy of the Clinton-Gore administration, the answer once again must be in the negative. Consider the following factors that have a potential to pose a serious threat to our people's security and our nation's interests:
* Terrorism: Tragic as it was, the deadly attack on the USS Cole is but an example of the level of violence terrorists and their backers are now capable of inflicting on the United States and its citizens. They can only have been emboldened by the Clinton-Gore administration's willingness to respond to such crimes against America, if at all, with feckless cruise missile strikes. Even worse, Bill Clinton and Al Gore have sought to upgrade bilateral relations with known state-sponsors of terrorism like North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Libya.
Particularly worrisome is another fact: Thanks in part to the willingness of Messrs. Clinton and Gore to look the other way at the proliferation of long-range missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction against our forces overseas, our allies and, increasingly, our own people here at home, tomorrow's terrorist nations will be armed with far more dangerous weapons than high explosive-laden motor boats and trucks. We are all less safe today because the administration has failed to use the past eight years to respond to this danger by deploying effective missile defenses.
* The Middle East: Even as the Cole was being attacked at one end of the Middle East, the region's only democracy and America's most important ally there Israel has come under violent assault from mobs and Palestinian "police" incited by Yasser Arafat. Regrettably, the attitude of moral equivalence that makes few distinctions between the former and the latter has been the hallmark of the Clinton-Gore administration's Mideast policy. This stance has had two insidious effects:
First, it has encouraged Israel's Arab enemies to believe the United States may not interfere if they renew their historic efforts to destroy the Jewish State. And second, it has induced the Israelis to give up territory and supply arms that, in Palestinian hands, have become the vehicles for just such a war.
The repercussions of these developments both for the West's democratic outpost in the Middle East and for the U.S. forces and national treasure that may have to be expended if this war metastasizes into a larger regional conflict will likely translate into less safety for all of us.
* Russia and China: During the Clinton-Gore years, the United States has squandered an opportunity to help transform Russia into a pro-Western democratic state. Thanks in part to sweetheart deals cut behind closed doors by Vice President Gore and the likes of former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Kremlin was encouraged to stymie real economic and political reform while forging new strategic partnerships with China and other, rogue states. These are translating into transfers of military hardware and technology around the globe that can only make our nation and interests less secure.
The Communist Chinese are not only arming themselves to the teeth with weapons designed by the former Soviet Union's military-industrial complex for one purpose: to kill Americans. Beijing is making it abundantly clear that the United States is "the main enemy" and that war between the two nations is inevitable. Contrast this with the situation before eight years of Clinton-Gore appeasement of the PRC, financial improprieties and reckless technology transfers and one appreciates how much more dangerous is the world being bequeathed by the incumbent president than the one he inherited.
* The Drug War: American communities and families are at greater risk than ever from illegal drugs thanks to the Clinton-Gore administration's failed policies towards the international narco-traffickers and their partners in organized crime and regimes like Fidel Castro's. Its failure to retain American bases in Panama has denied the United States the kind of presence and power projection capability essential to supporting nations on the front lines of the drug war. Colombia, a country whose very existence has been put at risk by guerrillas financing their operations with profits from the narcotics trade, is a prime example of the kind of political instability and social chaos that we must expect to have to confront elsewhere in Latin America.
* A Hollow Military: We are especially at risk from all these legacies of the Clinton-Gore years because the administration has allowed the U.S. military to degrade dramatically. This was the inevitable result of sustained underfunding and excessive shrinking of our armed forces even as they were being systematically overutilized, often for purposes of questionable utility or strategic value. Although the Republican Congress has made some progress in reversing these trends with belated support from the executive branch in the run-up to the 2000 election the next president is going to have to undertake a massive rebuilding program to restore our safety, just as Ronald Reagan did two decades ago.
The American people can no longer afford the policies that have diminished their safety and that of our nation. It is time for a fundamental course correction in this area, as in so many others. It is time to say "No" to four more years of Clinton-Gore style mis- and malfeasance in the conduct of defense and foreign affairs.

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

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