Further evidence that Rice may be separating herself from the Powell State Department came in her remarks rejecting a meeting between President Bush and Yasser Arafat at the United Nations. Arafat cannot claim to be a help in the war on terrorism, Rice warned, while he continues to "hug" Hezbollah and Hamas, two terrorist organizations that until recently the Bush administration had pretty much ignored in the interest of preserving Powell's Arab coalition. Although she has kept a low profile, the national security adviser probably remains the most influential person on the president's foreign policy team. Her recent statements are the best sign yet of the administration's increasing seriousness about fighting this war.
Finally, there is the question of the defense budget. We leave it to President Bush and his advisers to determine the best way of building our defenses while controlling pork barrel spending. But one thing is painfully obvious: There will have to be significant, sustained increases in spending on the armed forces. The United States is likely headed into a ground war of some size and duration in Afghanistan. The odds that we may soon be at war in Iraq grow daily. And the United States has other important security interests and obligations elsewhere in the world, especially in East Asia. Right now we simply do not have enough troops or weapons to carry out these missions. We will need to recruit more soldiers and procure more weapons--or risk losing the war on terrorism. But more troops cost money. As Thomas Donnelly of the Project for the New American Century has noted, recruiting, training, and equipping an additional 50,000 active-duty soldiers for the Army alone will cost an additional $15 billion per year. Right now, the president's total request for an increase in defense spending is $20 billion. There will have to be much more.
It's now two months since September 11. The administration's response has been in certain respects serious and impressive, in other respects uncertain and tentative. President Bush set a high standard for himself last Thursday when he closed his speech by invoking the memory of Todd Beamer and his fellow passengers on United Flight 93, saying, "Let's roll." It's a call the administration should heed.
November 19, 2001 - Volume 7, Number 10