President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address was short on specifics about national security but strong on the fundamentals, describing the ends, ways, and means that it takes to be a free, strong, and prosperous nation. The right national strategy requires a mix of strong security, economic growth, respect for civil liberties, and freedom promotion. The President not only highlighted the importance of each of these strategic pillars, but described how they must work together to secure America’s place in the 21st century.
No Substitute for Security
Only a robust mix of offensive and defensive measures is adequate to protect America. President Bush emphasized the importance of taking the battle to the terrorists and remaining engaged overseas. In particular, the President restated his unshakable commitment to ensuring a stable Iraq. As well, he made the point that security means more than military means; it also requires employing “soft power,” diplomatic and political tools, and international cooperation. The President also stressed the importance of a vigilant, responsive homeland security system.
Guns and Butter
Economic growth is an essential component of national security. A robust economy pays for security and meets all of the other needs of society. The President highlighted what has to be done to keep the American economy competitive: free trade, lawful immigration, and tax cuts that will spur economic growth. Most importantly, he emphasized the need for entitlement reform that will keep mandatory government outlays from overwhelming the federal budget and ballooning the deficit — as well as harming the economy and endangering the nation’s ability to protect itself.
Liberty and Order
Sacrificing liberty diminishes freedom and security because it weakens civil society. The United States must have security tools that stop terrorists and respect the constitutional rights of all Americans. The President reaffirmed his commitment to both security and civil liboven erties. He called for the extending the law enforcement powers granted in the Patriot Act, which have preffective in counterterrorism investigations and have not encroached on civil liberties. He also explained how the National Security Agency program to conduct surveillance of international terrorist communications has been used to stop attacks on the United States, not to spy on American citizens.
Let Freedom Ring
All wars are won in the minds of ordinary men and women. The President argued that spreading the message of liberty is an important part of making America safer. He called on Hamas to use its election victory in the Palestinian Territories as a mandate to renounce terrorism and look to the needs of the Palestinian people. He urged the people of Iran to reject their government’s wrong-headed policies that would use terrorists and nuclear threats as instruments of foreign policy.
While Congress may debate the specific of the President’s policies, they must share his vision and the certainness of strategy. The Administration and Congress must provide security, promote economic growth, and protect civil liberties. His State of the Union address demonstrates that the President has put his faith in this strategy.