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Press Release - A Strong Military for a New Century

May 23, 2007

"Like a beacon, America can once again provide a clear light for the world—dissolving the fog of injustice, illuminating the path to a new century. We need a strong military for a new century, and we need one based on hope, not fear. As Robert F. Kennedy once wrote, 'Our answer is the world's hope.' Our answer is the world's hope. We will need imagination and courage to imagine great possibilities, to create a world where terrorism belongs to the past. We must, at the same time, rely on our heritage: a time when we were admired by the world, where we shared, with generosity and good faith, our ideals of truth, justice, and equality."

– John Edwards

Moving Beyond the "War on Terror"

"The core of this presidency has been a political doctrine that George Bush calls the 'Global War on Terror.' He has used this doctrine like a sledgehammer to justify the worst abuses and biggest mistakes of his administration, from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, to the war in Iraq. The worst thing about the Global War on Terror approach is that it has backfired—our military has been strained to the breaking point and the threat from terrorism has grown."

"We need a post-Bush, post-9/11, post-Iraq American military that is mission-focused on protecting Americans from 21st century threats, not misused for discredited ideological pursuits. We need to recognize that we have far more powerful weapons available to us than just bombs, and we need to bring them to bear. We need to reengage the world with the full weight of our moral leadership."

"What we need is not more slogans but a comprehensive strategy to deal with the complex challenge of both delivering justice and being just. Not hard power. Not soft power. Smart power."

Uniting Strength and Moral Leadership

Edwards believes we must replace the "War on Terror" with a comprehensive strategy for the challenges of a new century. As General George Marshall said when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for leading the rebuilding of Europe, military power is "too narrow a basis on which to build a dependable, long-enduring peace."

In addition to a strong military, a comprehensive strategy requires strong and creative diplomacy, respect for human rights, and moral leadership.

We Must Continue to Strengthen Our Great Partnerships. Whether through bilateral relationships with friends from Great Britain to Israel to Japan, or through multilateral institutions like NATO, our partnerships have done so much good for America and the world. While the U.S. does not need permission to protect its interests, Edwards believes our strength lies in standing together with the world, not apart.

Our Intelligence Strategy Must be Effective and Must Adhere to the Rule of Law. We must aggressively gather intelligence in accordance with proven methods. At the same time, we must avoid actions that will give terrorists or even other nations an excuse to abandon international law. As president, Edwards will immediately address the issues that have become blemishes on America's image in the world by closing Guantanamo Bay, restoring habeas corpus, and banning torture.

Solving Global Poverty Is Both a Moral and a Security Issue. Edwards believes that the United States must be a global leader in the fight against poverty to help stabilize countries and regions. As part of his previously announced $5 billion initiative, he will help people in three priority areas: primary education, preventive health, and greater economic and political opportunity.

Rebuilding a Strong Military for a New Century

In rebuilding from the Bush years, we need a stronger military for three primary missions: deterring or responding to those who wish to do us harm; ensuring that the problems of weak and failing states do not create dangers for the United States; and maintaining our strategic advantage against major competitor states that could do us harm and otherwise threaten our interests.

Edwards' plan for rebuilding America's military is based on principles that look beyond Iraq, toward determining and providing the necessary resources; modernizing forces to meet the national security missions of the new century; and clarifying the role of our military, as America restores its moral leadership in the world.

Ensure that Our Military Policy Is Planned and Executed to Fulfill Essential National Security Missions, Not Some Ideological Fancy: The Bush administration has isolated America by elevating the right of preemption to a doctrine of "preventive war." As president, Edwards will only use offensive force after all other options including diplomacy have been exhausted, and after we have made efforts to bring as many countries as possible to our side. Edwards believes military force is justified to protect our vital national interests; to respond to acts of aggression by other nations and non-state actors; to protect treaty allies and alliance commitments; to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons; and to prevent or stop genocide.

Repair the Tremendous Damage Done to Civil-Military Relations: The past few years have brought the biggest crisis in civil-military relations in a generation. The mismanagement of the Pentagon has been so severe that many of our most decorated retired officers are speaking out. As president, Edwards will institute regular, one-on-one meetings with top military leadership. He will also reinstate a basic doctrine of national security management that has been demolished by the Bush Administration: military professionals will have primary responsibility in matters of tactics and operations, while civilian leadership will have authority in all matters of broad strategy and political decisions.

Root Out Cronyism and Waste and Increase Efficiency in the Pentagon: The Government Accountability Office has found that of Pentagon's 26 biggest acquisition programs, 40 percent are above expected costs and 20 percent are behind schedule. The top five weapons programs have increased in costs by average of 29 percent, or $122.4 billion. As president, Edwards will launch a comprehensive, tough review of fraud, waste, and abuse, such as missile defense and offensive space-based weapons, that are costly and unlikely to work. He will also overhaul the rules governing privatization, to punish mismanagement, and reform DOD compensation policies to reward performance. [Korb & Ogden, 2006; GAO, 2006]

Rebalance Our Force Structure for the Challenges of the New Century and Improve Our Capabilities to Help Weak or Failing States: The force structure of our military should match its mission. The Administration's mismanagement of the military has not only breached the faith at the highest levels–it has led to a very dangerous situation for our troops, their families, and our nation. We are sending some troops back to Iraq with less than a year's rest. Over 1,000 vehicles like tanks and helicopters have been lost in Iraq, and our equipment is being used at a rate of five to six times its peacetime use. And our forces are not equipped to meet the challenges of stabilizing weak states. Civilians and experienced government employees need to be involved in stabilizing states with weak governments, and providing humanitarian assistance where disasters have struck. One agency is on steroids -- the Pentagon -- while the civilian agencies are on life support. [Singer 2007. MSNBC 2007]

As president, Edwards will:

  • Build the military we need to meet the mission we have defined -- no more, no less -- basing future troop levels on a careful assessment of the post-Iraq threat environment.
  • Double the budget for recruiting and raise the standards for the recruiting pool.
  • Invest in maintenance of our equipment for the safety of our troops.
  • Create a "Marshall Corps" of up to 10,000 professionals, modeled on the Reserves systems, who will work on stabilization and humanitarian missions.
  • Provide both our soldiers and civilians with improved language skills and cultural understanding for their work overseas.
  • Implement new training for future military leadership and create a new undersecretary of defense for stabilization efforts and a new senior stabilization position within the Joint Staff.
  • Modernize our forces, so we do not keep spending money on systems that only meet the needs of today—not tomorrow. "Greening the military" to increase innovation, save millions of dollars, reduce reliance on vulnerable supply lines.

Create a National Security Budget: The military budget itself needs substantial reforms. Today, dozens of agencies perform overlapping tasks, and there is no central, overall accounting of all security activities performed by all relevant agencies. We have nuclear proliferation programs in the Defense, State, and the Energy departments, and more than 15 different security assistance programs, running out of both the State Department and the Defense Department. As president, Edwards will create a National Security Budget that will include all security activities by the Pentagon and the Department of Energy, and our homeland security, intelligence, and foreign affairs agencies.

Take on Broader Challenges: Ensuring national security requires more than the exercise of raw power. Fighting global warming will also protect our security interests -- a recent report authored by a group of top military leaders said that, if unchecked, global warming could lead to civil strife, genocide, and increased terrorism. Solving global poverty is a moral imperative, but it is also a security issue -- global poverty increases the risk to America by providing a safe harbor for instability, extremism, and terrorism. Living up to our American ideals by protecting basic freedoms will help us avoid actions that give terrorists or even other nations an excuse to abandon international law.

John Edwards, Press Release - A Strong Military for a New Century Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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