Clinton on the Five Threats Facing US
Bill Clinton said in a radio interview on Thursday that the Bush administration had made a grave mistake by turning US security with regard to al-Qaeda over to Pakistan while concentrating its own efforts on a low-level threat like Iraq.
The former president listed the security threats to the US after September 11 in order of importance, as follows:
2. Middle East bloodshed (i.e. the Arab-Israeli conflict)
3. The India-Pakistan conflict (i.e. Kashmir)
4. North Korea’s nuclear programme.
He rapped his successors in the White House for not pouring enough men and funds into the battle to catch Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda and Taliban holdouts along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
“Why did we put our number one security threat in the hands of the Pakistanis with us playing the supporting role and put all our military resources into Iraq which was I think at best our number five security threat?” Clinton said in an interview with CBC television.
“How did we get to the point where we have 130,000 troops in Iraq and 15,000 in Afghanistan?”
That Clinton listed Iraq number 5 indicates how obsessed the US power elite in Washington is with Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s regime was toothless as far as threatening the US is concerned and surely it does not deserve to be rated that high in fall 2001.
I think the renewed threat of the heroin trade in Afghanistan fueling narco-terrorism is an independent threat to the US that Bush is doing nothing about but which he easily could take on.
The rest of his list, however, is exactly on the money, and it is true that Bush has done almost nothing to resolve these problems, and has pursued an obsession with Iraq while leaving the US vulnerable to al-Qaeda and farming out dealing with the latter to the Pakistani military (a big mistake).
It is amazing to me that there has been no national debate about Bush’s significant transfer of military troops from South Korea to Iraq. It is not as if the Korea situation is stable. The US only had two divisions there, and only one of them was a fighting division. A division is about 20,000 troops. You take 3,600 troops away for Iraq, and that is significant. Indeed, the plan is to reduce US troop levels in South Korea by 12,500 in the next year and a half. North Korea has a million-man army and at least two nuclear weapons. The reduction is welcomed by the South Korean liberals, and maybe it is a good thing. But it demonstrates that Bush has over-stretched the US military by his overweening ambition in the Persian Gulf, and that he is having to steal from Peter to pay Paul. It is the sort of thing that calls for a debate, but there isn’t one. When did the United States become a monarchy in regard to foreign policy?
The other alarming implication of the transfer of US troops from South Korea to Iraq is that the US military is too small for Bush’s purposes.
If Bush gets a second term, he will almost certainly bring back the draft so as to have the resources to deal with Iran aggressively.