View Full Version : Rice's Best Defense:Two questions she should ask the 9/11 commission.

04-06-04, 11:47 AM
Rice's Best Defense
Two questions she should ask the 9/11 commission.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

This week National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will be on the hot seat, answering questions under oath in front of the 9/11 Commission. What she says will almost certainly better inform us all of what went wrong inside the bureaucracy. But while she has the opportunity, Ms. Rice might want to turn the tables and ask the commission two questions:

1. Commission Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton went on "Meet the Press" Sunday and said that their final report will include surprises and, more stunningly, that the Sept. 11 attacks could have been thwarted. How did the commissioners come to these conclusions before the long-awaited public questioning of the national security adviser? Or for that matter before reading through all those Clinton-era documents said to have been withheld from the commission, and before FBI Director Robert Mueller, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General John Ashcroft and President Bush have testified? And before former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former Attorney General Janet Reno and Bill Clinton have weighed in under oath?

2. How can a commission with a very narrow focus accurately portray the wider national-security picture that Ms. Rice and the rest of the Bush administration had to work with?

This second question is worth keeping in mind as Ms. Rice is pulled over the coals for failing to mention al Qaeda in speeches, and as reports come out claiming terrorism lost out to other defense agenda items--like national missile defense. The truth is that there are national-security threats other than al Qaeda, and the Bush administration was right to focus on them before Sept. 11 and is still right to focus on them today. It is this broader vision of defense that is vital to national security but that is obscured by premature conclusions and narrowly tailored inquiries.

Take missile defense. For decades the idea of blasting a missile out of the sky has been ridiculed--critics simply dismissed Ronald Reagan's proposal as "Star Wars"--even as the threat of a such an attack grew. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was no longer plausible to argue that "mutually assured destruction" would deter a missile attack. Yet throughout the 1990s the Clinton administration dragged its feet--usually saying the technology wasn't advanced enough to set up a national missile defense shield, even after Patriot missile batteries shot down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War.

Meanwhile, missile technology proliferated. China developed the ability to arm an intercontinental missile with a nuclear warhead. North Korea bought what it could not develop internally and sent a warning to the international community by launching a missile over Japan. In Pakistan, Abdul Qadeer Khan developed nuclear weapons and proceeded to sell his technology to Libya and other places. And Saddam secretly developed the ability to use his missiles at ranges forbidden under United Nations resolutions--the one banned weapons program for which the coalition found conclusive evidence.

All of this is why President Bush made withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty a campaign promise, which he kept, and why his administration has used every opportunity to develop and deploy a missile shield. Thanks to these efforts a limited shield will be in place on the West Coast in a few years.
The news coverage today notwithstanding, missile defense is part of the larger defense strategy that protects us from all manner of threats, including terrorism. Given that by itself al Qaeda is a dangerous organization that has big ambitions but only limited reach, the real threat is state-sponsored terrorism; look at what Osama bin Laden was able to do with what little the Taliban had to offer. The menace is much worse if al Qaeda or another terrorist outfit is able to link up with the rulers of Iraq, Iran, Libya or even nuclear-armed Pakistan. Missile defense would allow the U.S. to confront failed states that are armed with missiles while also lowering the risk to friendly neighboring nations that are essential to staging military interventions.

John Kerry and other "internationalists" may not like it, but missile defense would also allow America to have a more aggressive foreign policy. It's no coincidence that Patriot batteries went in to defend Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as the U.S. prepared to invade Iraq. And America's sphere of influence will only grow with missile defense technology. The balance of power in Asia will tip away from China as the U.S. extends a missile defense shield over Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Japan is already considering scrapping its longstanding ban on exporting military technology so it can develop some of the components of that shield. Mr. Kerry can hem and haw all he likes, but nothing wins cooperation like being able to shield a nation's population from annihilation. It's no wonder that, disagreements over Iraq notwithstanding, the U.S. is finding a broad coalition of support for efforts ranging from freezing bank accounts to nabbing terrorists and stopping weapons proliferation.

Sept. 11 was a national-security failure. But by the time of the attacks, the Bush administration was already laying the groundwork for a new layer of global defenses that is proving to be a solid foundation for conducting the war on terrorism. That's a far cry better than firing off a few cruise missiles at empty tents in the far reaches of Afghanistan.

Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com. His column appears Tuesdays.



04-06-04, 06:33 PM
You gotta understand, it's about getting a Dem elected, not getting to the truth.