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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dems Must Do Better On National Security, Analyst Says


The Democrats must do a better job in dealing with national security issues for the sake of their party and of the United States as a whole, according to an analyst at a Washington think tank.

National security issues have become much more politicized in recent years, says Kurt Campbell, senior vice president and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Indeed, after a brief period of brotherly love after the 9/11 attacks, we have descended into an incredibly political environment in which national security issues are the key wedge issues that have been used to animate differences between the parties," says Campbell, co-author of the book Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security.

Republicans have most effectively been able to use these issues against Democrats, Campbell argues.

"Rather than simply being an environment where we say that is unfair or then attack against Republicans for some perceived misdeed or follow-through issue, we try to look carefully at what Democrats also have to think about more seriously and have to do differently in order to gain the confidence of the American people on issues associated with national security," he says. "We believe that over the course of the last 15 or 20 years, a generation of American political pollsters and political pundits, particularly in the Democratic Party, has overlooked the importance of national security issues and decisions when making their choices about American political leaders."

It's not enough for Democrats merely to emphasize issues like healthcare and job creation where they are perceived to be stronger, Campbell says.

"Unless Democrats — not just for Democrats’ sake but for the sake of a more healthy political discourse and a more effective checks and balances in our own system — unless Democrats can develop a much greater feel of the textures and tolerances of national security, then it is going to be harder for them to gain the opportunity to demonstrate their dexterity and flexibility on the rest of these issues," he says.

Getting more serious about security issues, Campbell says, doesn’t mean supporting every war or every military venture but rather getting serious about the art of understanding military issues and "hard power."

Whatever the outcome of the Nov. 7 election, both parties will have to sharpen their thinking about security and military strategy, according to Campbell's co-author, Michael E. O'Hanlon.

"We have had a situation where one party [the Republicans] has been executing foreign policy as badly as I have ever seen in my lifetime, especially on the key issue of the day, Iraq," O'Hanlon says. "The other party has mostly wanted either to bow out of the debate or just essentially belabor the obvious, that Iraq is not going well, and that has been the sum total of most of its thinking on the subject. Neither one of these is a very sufficient way to get beyond November 7th, 2006. That is, unfortunately, all we are likely to hear for the next eight days. But on November 8th, these strategies will become obsolete, and both parties are going to have to do better if our country is going to do better."

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