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Rep. Buck McKeon's Foreign Policy Address

2:00 PM, Nov 15, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Rep. Buck McKeon, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, is set to deliver in the next hour the following remarks in Washington on foreign policy in the 112 Congress:

Rep. Buck McKeon's Foreign Policy Address

Thank you to the Foreign Policy Initiative for hosting me this afternoon, and giving me an opportunity to share my views on the state of the Department of Defense, our national security policy, and what we can expect from the 112th Congress.

This conference deals with leadership and that’s exactly what I’d like to discuss with you today.

Whether it is the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, strengthening our military and investing in a force postured to meet the challenges of the 21st century or protecting the homeland from adversaries, like al Qaeda, who threaten our way of life, the new Congress will face a number of serious national security challenges. No weapon platform, technological innovation or even the best fighting force in the world can manage these problems alone. As General Omar Bradley said, “Leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it.” A strong America requires strong American leaders who embody the steely determination and indomitable will of the American people.

Success in Afghanistan

Al Qaeda, operating from safe havens provided by the repressive Taliban in Afghanistan, planned and launched the attacks on our homeland on September Eleventh.

We must take all necessary steps to ensure al Qaeda does not regain a sanctuary in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. Any withdrawal short of victory would demonstrate to al Qaeda and its affiliated groups that they only have to cause enough casualties or prolong a conflict in order to drive the United States out of regions once deemed vital to our national interest. Such an outcome would gravely threaten the security of America and its allies.

We neglected this theatre of war for too long. Now that we are finally appropriately focused on Afghanistan, we must succeed.

Leadership on Afghanistan

I have full confidence General Petraeus can achieve the President’s objective of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and preventing safe havens on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. But it is essential our Commander-in-Chief give our military the time and resources it needs to succeed.

The July 2011 withdrawal date that accompanied the President’s December 9th announcement of the 30,000 surge forces was simply a mistake.

In Bob Woodward’s book the President specifically tied the outcome of last year’s Afghan policy review to political considerations, telling a visiting Senator the reason for the timelines and arbitrary troop limits was “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

Now that we’re past the mid-term election, I hope the President’s calculus will change. We’ve already seen public reports that the Administration is moving away from its July 2011 deadline. With Republicans leading the House, this gives the President the opportunity to focus on victory and not the politics of his caucus.

Bipartisan support for pursuing the strategic objectives in Afghanistan already exists. While the 2009 Afghanistan strategy review was reportedly “about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” we now have a new review coming up and a new commander. And I hope the focus from our leaders this time is on winning and not timetables.

During the December review, the American people deserve to hear from the new commander on the ground. We heard General Petraeus report on the surge when he led our forces in Iraq.           

The Armed Services Committee should hear from General Petraeus on the Afghanistan surge also. Absent hearing from General Petraeus the next Congress will not be able to effectively evaluate the President’s plan to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan.

Victory depends in large part on the will of the American people—and the President has sole responsibility to rally all Americans, regardless of domestic political considerations, around our troops and their mission.

Leadership in Iraq

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