“In the days following the attacks of September 11, 2001, America and the world stood united against a common enemy—Al Qaeda. Nowhere was that spirit stronger than at ground zero in New York, as President Bush stood atop the rubble proclaiming that America would find and defeat those who had ‘knocked these buildings down.’ Dozens of allies pledged their support, droves of young Americans began signing up for military service, and within a matter of months, the United States had launched a justified attack on Al Qaeda’s base of operations in Afghanistan, and the Taliban government that had given them safe harbor. Shortly thereafter, much of our enemy’s financial, communications, and training networks around the world were disrupted, and many of their top leadership captured or killed.Despite broad support for this policy, the Bush administration abruptly changed course in 2003. In doing so, they limited our military’s ability to destroy the enemy who attacked us and to deter the gathering threats we face at home and abroad today. The invasion and open-ended occupation of Iraq has proven to be a strategic blunder---emboldening our enemies, costing us our allies and credibility around the world, and creating deep divisions and distrust within our own government.The results to date are very telling. The intelligence used to justify the Iraq invasion has proven false. And while a horrible dictator has been ousted, nearly 4,000 American soldiers have been killed, and tens of thousands more are overwhelming a DoD and VA healthcare system that was grossly unprepared for war. Now, our military is mired in an Iraqi civil war that our Commander on the ground, General David Patraeus, has said cannot be won by force. Sectarian violence in Baghdad and beyond is growing dramatically. And the Iraqi Government, which has done almost nothing to foster the political reconciliation vital to their country’s future, is planning to go on vacation this summer.
Ultimately, our broken Iraq policy threatens the security interests of the United States. The war has already sapped more than a half trillion dollars from our treasury, pushed military readiness and recruitment to their lowest levels in more than 2 generations, and by virtue of our open ended presence in Iraq, has created a fertile new recruitment ground for terrorists.Our enemies have already taken advantage—not of the debate in which we are engaged—but the fact that the Iraq War has compromised the diplomatic leverage needed to rally international support to our cause, and weakened our military’s ability to respond to other emerging threats. Iran is an example. Intelligence shows they have provided material support to both Sunni and Shia insurgents in Iraq—keeping our military sufficiently occupied while they accelerate their own nuclear weapons programs. North Korea has also moved ahead with its atomic ambitions. China, the world’s fastest growing energy consumer and second largest owner of U.S. debt, is growing its pre-emptive military strike capabilities. Venezuela is leading an oil fueled anti-American revolt in Latin America. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar—the top three leaders of the Global terrorist movement that attacked us on 9/11---are still at large, and gathering new strength along the Afghan/Pakistan border.Having served in an intelligence capacity in the Iraq theater during the 1990’s, I have consistently said that Iraq was an unnecessary war of choice. Having said that, I believe our troops and commanders on the ground have performed brilliantly. Let me be clear. The politicians and policy makers have failed America in Iraq---not our military.Most Americans agree. In November, they elected a new Congress to change our Iraq policy, renew our focus on the destruction of Al Qaeda, improve our military readiness and security capabilities here at home, and ensure we were taking care of our troops before, during, and after deployment. Yet Presidential veto has left us with an open ended policy that lacks enforceable benchmarks for success, accountability for results, or a responsible strategy for re-deployment. This is a recipe for failure that has left America isolated and vulnerable, and increasing numbers of our troops exposed to preventable death. Only a change in policy, as proposed by Congress, a growing number of military commanders, and the Iraq Study Group can resolve this quagmire. Only a change in policy can give the American people, our fighting men and women, diplomats, Iraqi politicians, and regional stakeholders a workable framework for peace and security.This framework should include:
A short-term, limited U.S. military mission in Iraq, focused on counter-terrorism, force protection, and training Iraqi Security forces.A diplomatic surge that negotiates a regional security plan, enforced by the United Nations, with each of Iraq’s neighbors--Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey. Enforceable Iraqi political, economic, and security benchmarks for power sharing, cease fires among non-Al Qaeda insurgent groups, provincial elections, and oil revenue sharing, on which all future U.S. government aid will be based.Immediate re-deployment of all National Guard troops from Iraq, and a timetable for the responsible re-deployment of all U.S. troops from Iraq (in concert with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group), with a small “over the horizon” capabilities remaining in the region to combat terrorist concentrations.Increased military support for Afghani forces fighting a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda organization, economic incentives for allies in the War on Terror, and a renewed operational focus on killing/capturing Osama Bin Laden, Al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and other top Al Qaeda commanders.
And with the $2-$3 billion per week that America will save by ending its disastrous Iraq War Policy, we can invest in a comprehensive national security plan that includes rebuilding our military, addressing domestic security needs, achieving energy independence, balancing the federal budget, and keeping faith with our newest generation of veterans and their families. And we can do it without raising taxes.
Revitalizing America’s military: National Security Scholarships: Launch a renewable recruitment program that provides any American enlisting with the Army or Marine Corps with a free year of college or graduate school for each year of service.Double the Size of the National Guard: Incentivize recruitment by providing every National Guard member and their family, regardless of deployment status, health care coverage for as long as they serve. And working with the nation’s Governors we must ensure these forces are properly equipped and trained to accomplish their missions at home and abroad.Replacement of all military equipment destroyed in Iraq/Afghanistan, insufficient body armor, and non blast-resistant helmets within 5 years.Prohibit future deployment of US troops that are not fully equipped, trained, or otherwise mission capable unless the President can certify a compelling national interest.Securing Our Borders: It’s time to put results ahead of rhetoric on our borders. That means doubling the current number of border control agents, rapidly accelerating virtual/physical fence construction, and fully implementing the use of bio-metric technology at every U.S. Airport and border crossing.Balance the Federal Budget: We must end the practice of putting our children in debt to our military rivals and OPEC nations who provide safe harbor to terrorists.Energy Independence: By investing in a goal of energy independence within 10 years, America can create thousands of new jobs while ending the practice of supporting terrorists at the gas pump.Veterans Security is National Security: The greatest possible threat to the recruitment, retention and morale of our troops is a government that fails to keep its promises. A comprehensive national security plan fully funds the VA Healthcare system, eliminates the VA claims backlog, rolls back VA user fees, doubles the number of mental health counselors and patient advocates, and invests in quality support services for military families.
National Security Scholarships: Launch a renewable recruitment program that provides any American enlisting with the Army or Marine Corps with a free year of college or graduate school for each year of service.Double the Size of the National Guard: Incentivize recruitment by providing every National Guard member and their family, regardless of deployment status, health care coverage for as long as they serve. And working with the nation’s Governors we must ensure these forces are properly equipped and trained to accomplish their missions at home and abroad.Replacement of all military equipment destroyed in Iraq/Afghanistan, insufficient body armor, and non blast-resistant helmets within 5 years.Prohibit future deployment of US troops that are not fully equipped, trained, or otherwise mission capable unless the President can certify a compelling national interest.
Most Americans oppose the war in Iraq, but are pessimistic about what lies ahead, after five years of broken policy.I believe that the solution lies in what we are all for---a stronger America.Strengthened by a new policy that matches reality and engenders success, we can end the war in Iraq and win the war against Al Qaeda. We can honor the sacrifice of our troops, confront the range of short and long-term security threats facing our country, and we can heal the wounds of partisan division.We can and we must.Charles D. Brown, Lt. Col., USAF Ret.
Charlie Brown, Lt. Col. Ret spent 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, serving as a rescue helicopter and reconnaissance pilot in support of military operations around the world. He is also a credentialed California teacher, former professional staff-member at the Roseville Police Department, and was the Democratic Nominee for Congress in California’s 4th District in 2006. Charlie’s son recently completed his fourth rotation in Iraq with the U.S. Air Force.
Reviews: National Security Leaders Hail Brown Plan--06/27/07
"Charlie Brown knows what it means to defend America and to really support our troops. His plan puts America back on a path towards real security." Tim Roemer, former Member of Congress and former 9/11 Commissioner
"Lt. Col. Brown has produced a well thought out and comprehensive roadmap for a more secure America. And his commitment to the readiness and aftercare needs of those charged with our defense is unmatched." Matt Cary, President, Veterans and Military Families for Progress"Charlie Brown is proposing a sober, sensible, and innovative plan for our national security. We need to have more leaders like Colonel Brown in Congress. From day one, he will be a major voice on issues that matter to our veterans, our fighting men and women, and all of us here at home." Dr. Jeremy D. Mayer, Director of National Security Projects, Americans for Strong National Security