by Charles Lemos, Sun Dec 27, 2009 at 03:08:58 PM EST
Quoting an unnamed Administration official, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said this on Fox News Sunday, "Iraq was yesterday's war, Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war." Endorsing that view, Senator Lieberman went on to note that unless we act preemptively now the US is likely to find itself in a war in the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula. Senator Lieberman argued that the US will have to take an active approach in Yemen after multiple recent terrorist attacks were linked back to the small, deeply divided and desperately poor nation.
From The Hill:
Lieberman, who is known to be hawkish on security issues, said that Yemen needs to be a focal point because two recent attacks were linked back to a growing al-Qaeda presence there.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan -- the Army officer who killed 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in November -- was linked to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric now based in Yemen.
The senator said that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian accused of attempting to set off a plastic-explosive device aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday, "reached out to Yemen" but was "not sure" if he contacted al-Awlaki. Abdulmutallab reportedly told authorities he traveled to Yemen and met al-Qaida figures there.
The U.S. earlier this month launched cruise missiles at two al-Qaeda targets in Yemen. The attacks represented a major escalation of U.S. efforts against al-Qaeda in Yemen.
One of the reasons I like Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, is that for quite some time now almost alone in the Washington wilderness he has been talking about the threat emanating from failed states. "In recent years, the lines separating war, peace, diplomacy and development have become more blurred and no longer fit the neat organizational charts of the 20th century," Secretary Gates noted in a speech in Washington in July 2008 when he was still serving in the Bush Administration.
Lost in the pre-Christmas shuffle and the debate over healthcare was a proposal by Secretary Gates that merits attention. From the Washington Post:
The proposal is aimed at addressing problems that have dogged the U.S. effort in Iraq and Afghanistan -- particularly, disputes over whether civilians or the better-funded military should be in charge of stabilization.
But Gates' proposal goes beyond those conflicts to address what the military increasingly sees as the greatest threat to the United States -- failing states such as Yemen and Somalia that could provide a haven for terrorist groups.
The proposal would concentrate existing and new money in three long-term funds totaling as much as $2 billion. They would be dedicated to training security forces, preventing conflicts and stabilizing violence-torn societies around the world. The funds would exist separately from the war budgets, and allow for quicker and better-coordinated response to looming or actual conflicts, officials said.
In a memo to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gates noted that the huge increase in Pentagon funding for stabilization efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted complaints about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy.
The proposal "sets forth a new approach that could transcend these debates. It argues for a new model of shared responsibility and pooled resources for cross-cutting security challenges," Gates wrote in the unclassified Dec. 15 memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post.
Gates hasn't discussed his proposal directly with Clinton, though they have talked about the broader issue, officials said.
Secretary Gates' proposal is currently being reviewed by the State Department. Under Secretary Gates' proposal, State and Defense would provide money from their own budgets -- either contributing 50/50 or according to each department's priorities. The departments would jointly select the projects.
According to the Post, Secretary Gates outlined different scenarios for launching the three funds in 2011. The most ambitious of these scenarios envisions a $1 billion fund to train and equip foreign security forces and another $1 billion for conflict prevention and stabilization. "Such an approach would dramatically increase non-military assistance," the memo says. The approach is based on the model now used by the United Kingdom.
Congressional response to the idea has been lukewarm. Several legislative aides and a senior administration official said Gates' idea for joint funds "might not fly", given that the multiple congressional committees that oversee the Defense and State budgets are unlikely to cede control. But Secretary Gates addressed this issue noting that the joint funds would fall under the oversight jurisdiction of eight congressional committees. To avoid a bureaucratic nightmare, Secretary Gates suggested creating special standing committees in the House and Senate.
If Senator Lieberman wants to lead not just talk jibberish, he should perhaps have a tête-à-tête with Secretary Gates. Two billion is a pittance compared to the cost of endless wars. While Senator Lieberman seems eager to fight tomorrow's war, Secretary Gates is more intent on avoiding it.