1. Commence the military disengagement process in Iraq as soon
as feasible after the January elections. Granted, it will be
an extended and gradual process but it must begin sooner than
later. We will not have eliminated terrorism and insurgency in
Iraq or solved its many problems but if we predicate the duration
of our military presence upon achieving ideal conditions there,
we will be there too long and public support at home will continue
to erode. We must not allow the violence, which will not magically
cease after the election, to lend credibility to terrorist claims
that we were defeated by it and eventually forced to withdraw,
as in Vietnam.
2. Face the
reality that our military is stretched too thin. The Defense
is sizing the military based upon current
commitments and we are overextended even there, forcing over-reliance
on reserve and National Guard forces, active duty extensions,
repeat combat tours and new technology. We must increase the
size of the regular armed forces that are now at their lowest
numerical levels since the 1930s. Disengagement in Iraq will
not mitigate the need for larger, properly equipped, conventional
Army and Navy-Marine forces sufficient to deal with multiple
threats to U.S. interests anywhere in the world without requiring
months to muster the necessary forces and sealift. Our naval
fleet now numbers fewer than 300, the smallest since the Great
Depression and the current shipbuilding rate will not sustain
even that. If we are serious about defeating international terrorism,
we must invest in the military forces we are likely to need and
not settle just for “going to war with the army we have”.
We cannot continue to rely so heavily upon citizen soldiers whose
civilian careers must be repeatedly interrupted.
3. Muster the political courage and will to deal with illegal
immigration. In a post 9/11 world, we can no longer afford to
ignore the fact that we do not have effective control of our
borders and have little idea of the identity and location of
those millions who are here illegally. This is clearly not what
a majority of Americans want and it is time for them to demand
that their government put a stop to it.
4. Begin reform of our convoluted tax code. It should not require
eleven hours for the average short form filer to complete a tax
return. The hopelessly complicated tax code fills volumes and
is largely incomprehensible to the average American who must
hire experts in order to comply with the law. This is a stupid
waste of manpower and energy that could be put to more productive
use. We need to simplify the process through a flat tax or some
sort of value added tax that will produce the same amount of
revenue as the current system at a fraction of the cost and aggravation.
5. Confront the nuclear proliferation crisis before it is too
late. There are eight nations in the nuclear club and several
others knocking at the door, at least two of which have unstable
governments hostile to the United States. They must not be permitted
to possess nuclear weapons and we must be prepared to do whatever
is necessary to deny them should diplomacy fail.
6. Deal with the growing problem of math and science illiteracy
in the United States. Our students are falling behind those from
other industrialized countries, particularly those of Asian.
At the same time, we are exporting technology to China. The top
math and science students in our universities tend to be foreign
students, mostly Asians. By way of illustration, 36% of the students
at MIT are foreign students and the percentage is higher in some
west coast universities. Fortunately, many of them remain in
the United States after graduation, becoming highly skilled and
honesty and candor in foreign relations. America should stand
what’s right, not necessarily what’s “balanced” or “even-handed” in
an attempt to please everyone. Diplomacy is a means to an end,
not an end in itself, as some career diplomats in Foggy Bottom
seem to think.
real reform in the United Nations as a condition for continued
The problem involves more than just the
well-documented corruption. It’s also the fact that the
UN doesn’t work as it is currently structured. It is worse
than ineffective. As a peacekeeping force and protector of victims
of civil strife in such places as Bosnia and Ruanda, the UN has
been counterproductive, permitting massacres to take place while
blue helmeted “peacekeepers” just watched. The advantages
of committee membership are extended to corrupt, dictatorial
regimes that use the UN as a forum to denounce us. Security Council
membership includes France but not India, a much larger country.
What sense does that make in today’s world?
shifts in world power, population and economic strength. The
of the former colonial powers of Europe
is declining. Their star is dimming as Asia’s is rising.
The nations of Western Europe are degenerating into welfare states
whose populations are not reproducing themselves. China and India
at their present rates of growth may well overtake us in this
century and will eventually join us as superpowers. Yet, we remain
wedded to the myth that we require the concurrence of the Western
European governments in everything that we do. Our focus should
increasingly be oriented toward the nations bordering the Pacific
and Indian Oceans.
10. Finally, maintain the political courage to carry through
with social security and Medicare reforms. We are living longer
and need to delay retirement benefits to help save these vital
programs. The challenge will be to keep older, healthy people
in the workforce paying into the system longer.