This is THE critical subject for the next president - if he or she doesn't get it right our grandchildren will live in a much worse world.
I think our national security is defined as living without fear of violence from home or abroad where families can go about their daily business in peace.
It is job one of the national government.
Part of national security is having and maintaining a military force strong enough to counter armed threats from abroad or terror from home or abroad.
Critical to that strength is an economy strong enough to pay for the required military.
But, military and economic strength alone is not enough to guarantee that security.
Here's why: DARPA estimates that the USA spends one million dollars for every dollar the enemy spends in Iraq. Since Al Queda seems to have a zero cost, inexhaustible supply of suicide bombers willing to blow themselves up with $1.95 worth of explosives, the only true national security for the USA is to reduce or eliminate the supply of potential martyrs.
Clearly it will not take too many more potential martyrs attacking the USA to bankrupt the country at a spending ratio of one million to one.
[Tongue in cheek here] This, of course, is the market solution to the problem of having a world where many very poor people hate a large, rich country like the USA. The market says let suicide bombers blow themselves up until equilibrium is reached where the spending of the rich country to protect itself nearly bankrupts the rich country and the cost of securing martyrs rises to meet the spending of the rich country.
This is economics gone mad, but it seems to be where we are heading.
A sensible national security policy for the USA will be to try to reduce the supply of martyrs and thus raise their cost. Blowing up training camps will be helpful in that effort, but the true solution lies in reducing the numbers of potential martyrs who want to be trained.
That has to be a many faceted effort. More jobs in poor Muslim countries. Better economic growth in all countries. Also, the USA should reach out to influential Muslims to find the common ground of beliefs and nurture relationships with those people. Then perhaps we can encourage some Muslims to make the act of martyrdom less attractive.
Further, we should stop doing things which are against our ideals and are likely to make people hate us even more - things like torture and bombing civilians, for example.
The Reps are particularly handicapped when dealing with this problem for several reasons.
First, much of their campaign funds come from the military/industrial/oil complex which has vested interests in continuing a war-like society. Rep presidents are likely to continue with a warlike policy to appease their base.
Second, Reps share a common belief that markets will solve any problem and that any government interference in markets is a bad thing. But, these issues require a sensible government interference to avoid a disaster.
Third, most Rep candidates simply do not address or think about these issues and are unprepared to deal with them. When faced with the real world, they are likely to panic and retreat into a single policy response of force.
Fourth, many Reps and their conservative base don't like to think about or have contact with people who are different than they are: black people, Muslims, French, whatever. But the real world will continue to force itself into our awareness whether we like it or not.
Thus, a Rep candidate if elected will likely reduce the national security of the United States.
As far as the Dems go, seems like some Dems are thinking about the problem and I'd like to see someone who has thought about these questions in the White House in 2008.