Dangers Rise as America Retreats
By Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney
Wall Street Journal
September 9, 2016
Fifteen years ago this Sunday,
nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in the deadliest attack on the U.S. homeland
in our history. A decade and a half later, we remain at war with Islamic
terrorists. Winning this war will require an effort of greater scale and
commitment than anything we have seen since World War II, calling on every
element of our national power.
Defeating our enemies has been
made significantly more difficult by the policies of Barack
Obama. No American president has done more to weaken the U.S., hobble our
defenses or aid our adversaries.
President Obama has been more
dedicated to reducing America’s power than to defeating our enemies. He has
enhanced the abilities, reach and finances of our adversaries, including the
world’s leading state sponsor of terror, at the expense of our allies and our
own national security. He has overseen a decline of our own military
capabilities as our adversaries’ strength has grown.
Our Air Force today is the oldest
and smallest it has ever been. In January 2015, then-Army Chief of Staff Gen.
Ray Odierno testified that the Army was as unready as it had been at any other
time in its history. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert
testified similarly that, “Navy readiness is at its lowest point in many
Nearly half of the Marine Corps’
non-deployed units—the ones that respond to unforeseen contingencies—are
suffering shortfalls, according
to the commandant of the Corps, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. For the first time in
decades, American supremacy in key areas can no longer be assured.
The president who came into office
promising to end wars has made war more likely by diminishing America’s
strength and deterrence ability. He doesn’t seem to understand that the
credible threat of military force gives substance and meaning to our diplomacy.
By reducing the size and strength of our forces, he has ensured that future wars
will be longer, and put more American lives at risk.
Meanwhile, the threat from global
terrorist organizations has grown. Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National
Counterterrorism Center, told the House Homeland Security Committee in July
that, “As we approach 15 years since 9/11, the array of terrorist actors
around the globe is broader, wider and deeper than it has been at any time since
that day.” Despite Mr. Obama’s claim that ISIS has been diminished, John
Brennan, Mr. Obama’s CIA director, told the Senate Intelligence Committee
in June that, “Our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability
or global reach.”
The president’s policies have
contributed to our enemies’ advance. In his first days in office, Mr. Obama
moved to take the nation off a war footing and return to the failed policies of
the 1990s when terrorism was treated as a law-enforcement matter. It didn’t
matter that the Enhanced Interrogation Program produced information that
prevented attacks, saved American lives and, we now know, contributed to the
capture and killing of Osama
bin Laden. Mr. Obama ended the program, publicly revealed its techniques,
and failed to put any effective terrorist-interrogation program in its place.
We are no longer interrogating
terrorists in part because we are no longer capturing terrorists. Since taking
office, the president has recklessly pursued his objective of closing the
detention facility at Guantanamo by releasing current detainees—regardless of
the likelihood they will return to the field of battle against us. Until
recently, the head of recruitment for ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan was a
former Guantanamo detainee, as is one of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders in the
As he released terrorists to
return to the field of battle, Mr. Obama was simultaneously withdrawing American
forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. He calls this policy “ending wars.” Most
reasonable people recognize this approach as losing wars.
When Mr. Obama took the oath of
office on Jan. 20, 2009, Iraq was stable. Following the surge ordered by
President Bush, al Qaeda in Iraq had largely been defeated, as had the Shiite
militias. The situation was so good that Vice President Joe
Biden predicted, “Iraq will be one of the great achievements of this
Today, Iraq’s border with Syria
has been erased by the most successful and dangerous terrorist organization in
history. ISIS has established its “caliphate” across a large swath of
territory in the heart of Syria and Iraq, from which it trains, recruits, plots
and launches attacks.
On Aug. 20, 2012, Mr. Obama drew a
red line making clear he would take military action if Syrian President Bashar
Assad used chemical weapons. A year later, Mr. Assad launched a sarin-gas attack
on his own people in the suburbs of Damascus. Mr. Obama did nothing—a failure
that destroyed America’s credibility and strengthened the hand of our
We now know that the president’s
refusal to act came as the Iranians and the U.S. were engaged in secret talks
about Iran’s nuclear program. In his new book, “The Iran Wars,” Wall
Street Journal correspondent Jay Solomon writes that according to Iranian
sources, “Tehran made it clear to the American delegation that the nuclear
negotiations would be halted if the U.S. went ahead with its attack on Assad.”
The Iranians were now in the driver’s seat, not just regarding their own
policy in the Middle East, but in determining America’s.
President Obama and Secretaries of
Clinton and John
Kerry were so concerned with pleasing Iran’s ruling mullahs that they were
willing to overlook the American blood on Iranian hands and decades of Iran’s
activities as the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. In pursuit of the
nuclear deal, they made concession after dangerous concession.
Every promise made to the American
people about the Obama nuclear agreement has been broken. We were promised a
“world-class” verification process. Instead, the Iranians are allowed in key
instances to verify themselves.
We were promised the agreement
would “block every pathway” to an Iranian nuclear weapon. Instead, the
Obama-Clinton agreement virtually guarantees an Iranian nuclear weapon, gives
them access to the latest in centrifuge technology and will likely usher in a
nuclear arms race across the Middle East.
We were promised that non-nuclear
sanctions, including those that block Iran’s access to hard currency and our
financial systems, would remain in place. Instead, the Obama administration has
paid the mullahs at least $1.7 billion in cash, which includes at least $1.3
billion in U.S. taxpayer money, the first installment of which was ransom for
the release of American hostages.
In case there is any doubt that
the regime will use these funds to support terror, Iran’s parliament recently
passed Article 22 of its 2016-2017 budget, mandating that all such funds be
transferred directly to the Iranian military. Fifteen years after 3,000
Americans were killed by Islamic terrorists, America’s commander in chief has
become the money launderer in chief for the world’s leading state sponsor of
Iran isn’t the only adversary
benefiting from the age of Obama. Russia is threatening NATO, invading sovereign
territory, selling air-defense systems to the Iranians, using its military to
defend the Assad regime, bombing American-backed rebels in Syria, and playing a
larger role in the Middle East than at any time since Anwar Sadat expelled his
Soviet advisers from Egypt in 1972.
Across the region, nations that
previously were strong American allies are making different calculations. Russia
is seen as a reliable ally standing with Mr. Assad, while the U.S. walks away
from its friends. The steady stream of visitors from the Middle East to Moscow,
including most recently Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is evidence
of Moscow’s growing role in the region. Neither Russia nor Vladmir Putin
shares America’s interests.
China is also
ascendant—threatening freedom of navigation through the South China Sea and
developing weapons systems that directly threaten American military superiority.
North Korea represents a growing nuclear threat to the U.S. homeland. Mr.
Obama’s announced pivot to Asia turned out to be hollow, further alienating
our allies and emboldening our enemies in the region.
Undoing this damage will require
an effort of historic proportions. Our next president must abandon Mr. Obama’s
fantasy that unilaterally disarming, retreating and abandoning our allies will
bring peace and security. We must begin at once to rebuild our military. This
means ending sequestration and returning to a Defense Department budget built
around defeating the threats to our nation. We must remedy readiness shortfalls,
modernize and upgrade our nuclear arsenal, develop and build a robust
missile-defense system, and invest in technologies necessary to maintain our
military superiority, particularly against advances by adversaries like Russia,
China, Iran and North Korea.
Among the most important lessons
of 9/11 was that terrorists must be denied safe havens from which to plan and
launch attacks against us. On President Obama’s watch, terrorist safe havens
have expanded around the globe.
Our next president must recognize
that Islamic terrorists pose an existential threat to the U.S., and must
instruct the military to provide plans necessary to defeat them and deny them
safe havens. These should include expanding the pace of our air campaign against
ISIS, removing the onerous rules of engagement, and dedicating additional
special operators and other American forces as necessary to defeat our enemies.
Winning the war against Islamic
terrorists will also require that we rebuild our intelligence capabilities. Our
next president should reinstate the Enhanced Interrogation Program, ensure that
Guantanamo remains open so we have a facility to hold enemy combatants, and
increase our intelligence activities so we can identify and disrupt plots before
they are carried out.
We must make clear that we will
not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon or become nuclear capable. Our next
president should renounce the Obama-Clinton nuclear agreement, develop a
strategy in consultation with our allies in the region to address Iran’s state
sponsorship of terror, and make clear that all options are on the table where
Iran’s nuclear program is concerned.
We must also rebuild our
relationships with allies across the globe so that we can build the coalitions
necessary to defeat Islamic terrorism and restore our strength and power. This
includes reinvigorating NATO and affirming America’s unshakable commitment to
the most effective military alliance in history.
Generations before have met and
defeated grave threats to our nation. American strength, leadership and ideals
were crucial to the Allied victory in World War II and the defeat of Soviet
Communism during the Cold War. It will be up to today’s generation to restore
American pre-eminence so that we can defend our freedom and defeat Islamic
Since World War II, America has
been freedom’s defender—for ourselves and for millions around the world. We
do this because our security depends upon it and because there is no other
nation that can.
As Americans calculate the costs
of leadership, we must remember that the costs of failing to lead—or of
inaction—are much higher. Imagine a world where Russia, Iran, China and North
Korea set the rules; where militant Islam spreads its evil ideology unchallenged
across the globe; where parts of Europe are once again enslaved by Russia, our
NATO alliance impotent; and where China achieves military superiority over the
U.S. and dominates Asia and beyond.
Finally, imagine a world where the
terrorists and their leading state sponsor have nuclear weapons. Fifteen years
after 9/11, we can say with certainty that this is the world that will be
created by withdrawal and retreat—by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s
policies—if we don’t reverse course.