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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

National Priorities for the New Year
Suggestions for the Administration…

[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 12/29/04

In lieu of New Year’s resolutions, I offer, this year, some suggested national priorities for President Bush and the Congress in 2005.

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 Department 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 productive citizens.

7. Practice honesty and candor in foreign relations. America should stand up for 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.

8. Demand real reform in the United Nations as a condition for continued U.S. support. 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?

9. Recognize shifts in world power, population and economic strength. The importance 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.

Have a happy, prosperous and healthy 2005 and may your resolutions for the New Year be achieved. tOR

copyright 2004 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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