- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2004

Sen. John Kerry, laying out his vision for U.S. national security yesterday, said the Bush administration policy amounts to bullying, and said fighting the war on terror depends on restoring international alliances.

“Because al Qaeda is a network with many branches, we must take the fight to the enemy on every continent — and enlist other countries in that cause,” said Mr. Kerry, the presumed Democratic nominee for president.

“America must always be the world’s paramount military power. But we can magnify our power through alliances,” he said. “We simply can’t go it alone — or rely on a coalition of the few. The threat of terrorism demands alliances on a global scale — to find the extremist groups, to guard ports and stadiums, to share intelligence, and to get the terrorists before they get us.”

Speaking in Seattle, Mr. Kerry said the administration has treated foreign policy like a children’s playground: “They bullied when they should have persuaded.”

He listed a four-part plan for facing national security challenges in the 21st century. In addition to seeking international coalitions, he proposed reconstituting the armed forces to fight terror, using American ideas and values to enhance diplomacy, and ending U.S. dependence on Middle East oil.

With most Americans still believing Mr. Bush is the tougher candidate on terrorism, Mr. Kerry has peppered his security speeches with the declaration he will pursue terrorism vigorously.

“This is my message to the terrorists: As commander in chief, I will bring the full force of our nation’s power to bear on finding and crushing your networks,” he said.

Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, criticized the president for the way he has pursued the war in Iraq, and also pointedly blamed him for letting Osama bin Laden escape capture during the battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in December 2001.

Republicans blistered at that charge, with Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee, calling it an “urban legend.”

“Americans know better, and I recommend that Senator Kerry take a few minutes off his campaign schedule to meet with the brave Americans who were actually at the battle of Tora Bora — they have a different view of their accomplishments,” Mr. Cornyn said.

And Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said Mr. Kerry’s speech “seemed to me pretty long on politics and rhetoric but offering really nothing new — in fact no new initiatives separate from what President Bush is already doing.”

Mr. Kerry’s speech is the first in a series he will give on national security, including a speech Thursday in Fulton, Mo., on rebuilding U.S. military forces to handle terrorism.

The speech did not go deeply into U.S. policy in Iraq, and advisers said that was deliberate.

“John Kerry has been amazingly consistent on Iraq, and he’s been consistently right: on the need for more troops, and dealing with the threat internationally, on what to do after Saddam falls,” said Samuel R. Berger, a Kerry foreign policy adviser who was President Clinton’s national security adviser.

But Mr. Kerry did suggest that Mr. Bush “make a sustained effort” to attract international support, including trying to make Iraq a NATO mission, and that the president advocate an international high commissioner to help Iraq create a constitution and organize elections.

Mr. Kerry and his advisers have said Mr. Bush’s recent words and deeds on Iraq, such as giving U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi extensive authority, seem to have moved toward Mr. Kerry’s positions.

“Everyone outside the administration seems to understand that we are in deep trouble in Iraq. Failure there would be a terrible setback,” Mr. Kerry said. “It would be a boon to our enemies, and jeopardize the long-term prospects for a peaceful, democratic Middle East — leaving us at war not just with a small, radical minority, but with increasingly large portions of the entire Muslim world.”

On Wednesday, former Vice President Al Gore said Mr. Kerry should not “tie his own hands” by being specific about his plans for Iraq, because the situation there is changing so rapidly.

Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said the broadness of Mr. Kerry’s remarks yesterday suggests he was paying heed to Mr. Gore.

“Listening to Senator Kerry’s speech today makes clear he listened to the seemingly unstable Gore’s advice,” Mr. Allen said.

On Monday, Mr. Bush outlined some details about his own plan for Iraq, and sought to convince Americans of the necessity of staying engaged in that nation.

“America’s task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend — a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf,” the president said. “And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done.”

Republicans said Mr. Kerry continues to claim he is drawing distinctions between himself and Mr. Bush on Iraq, but they said the senator continues to disappoint.

“Kerry challenges the president’s Iraq policy, but offers no alternatives beyond steps the president is already taking,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, California Republican.

“Kerry says we should work with the U.N. — and we already are. Kerry says we should involve NATO — and we already have. Kerry says we should train Iraqi security forces — and we’re doing that, too,” Mr. Hunter said.

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