- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2004

July Fourth began a long hot summer that will be made hotter by the formal start of the presidential campaign. Later this month, Sen. John Kerry, with Sen. John Edwards, will be nominated in his hometown of Boston; President Bush will be renominated in August in New York. So far, while the rhetoric often has been fiery, the real differences between the two contenders have not clarified yet for the voters. Nor have new, bold policy proposals for making the United States safer,securer and more prosperous become obvious.

On the Bush side of the ledger, this is a president with bold views. His policies on tax cuts and on democratizing the Middle East are as sweeping as any in memory.Whether they will change and whether the nation will be better or worse off, however, still remains to be seen.

On the Kerry side, robust criticisms of the Bush programs were matched so far by cautious alternatives. For example, his latest prescriptions for rebuilding Iraq called for getting “help from others” that will also require giving “them a meaningful voice in Iraqi affairs.” It is not clear how “others” will react to that proposal or self-evident why it will work.

What then might be some bold ideas for both candidates to consider in making the nation safer and more prosperous, recognizing that the Bush administration has been reluctant to seek counsel beyond its ideological circle and the Kerry campaign has been cautious in keeping to safe territory? Three are central and deal with fortifying and creating security relationships, reorganizing America’s security structure and using energy as an engine to drive economic growth.

Only months ago, the future of NATO looked bright. At the Prague summit in November 2002, the alliance committed to fundamental reform, agreed to deploy a NATO Response Force (NRF) with real capability and laterassumeddutiesin Afghanistan as the International Security Assistance Force. But bitter disputes over Iraq, European perceptions of American inflexibility and proposed redeployment of U.S. forces from Germany have clouded NATO’s future. There is little hope of a real NATO force going into Iraq in the near term, and reports from Afghanistan are increasingly bleak.

Meanwhile, there has been little progress over denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Humanitarian crises in Africa receive rhetoric, not action. The United States seems oblivious to events south of its border. Clearly, this is a time when friends count. Bold new initiatives, such as rejuvenating NATO through expanding the NRF or regionally embracing responsibilities in Africa for humanitarian aid where many NATO members are already obligated by past ties, are such steps. And constructing new security arrangements in the Pacific and Latin America to deal with terror and the proliferation of dangerous technologies are two other possibilities.

Regarding American security, lip service is paid to understanding that national security means far more than defense. But America’s security organization still is very much stuck in the Cold War. It must be modernized. The bold action of amending the National Security Act, first passed in 1947, is one means. Intelligence and law enforcement must be more closely integrated with the nation’s diplomatic, military and economic advantages. And far more attention must be given to military operations well short of major combat. While future Iraqs cannot be assumed as inevitable, surely the lessons of what was not anticipated must be integrated into the nation’s security structure.

Finally, a bold vision for moving the country to the next stage of economic prosperity is needed. Today, alternative sources of energy offer an engine to propel the economy for decades. What is different from 30 years ago, when then-President Richard Nixon launched Project (Energy) Independence, is both technological and political.

No one disputes that oil reserves are finite and that demand is growing. However, technology to raise fuel efficiency dramatically, as well as to turn agricultural and animal wastes to inexpensive high-grade vehicle fuel, exists. These represent a potential no less than the microchip did decades ago. And politics can bring together environmentalists, industrialists, conservatives and labor, as the opportunity here to create a new, environmentally friendly economy with industries that can employ millions here and overseas is real. The arguments for this approach have been forcefully put by Sen. Dick Lugar and former intelligence chief James Woolsey.

John Kerry believes that this is the most important election in his lifetime, and not because he is running. I not only agree with him, but I also believe this may be the most important election since 1860. We face new and radically different threats and challenges to our safety and prosperity. Bold ideas may not always provide the right solutions. But unless we can think boldly, the right solutions will not happen by accident.

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