The Campaign Spot

Edwards: White House Manipulates Threat Levels Leading up to Elections

John Edwards makes a pretty huge accusation in today’s speech, for which he ought to be called to account:

It’s even been used by this White House as a partisan weapon to bludgeon their political opponents. Whether by manipulating threat levels leading up to elections, or by deeming opponents “weak on terror,” they have shown no hesitation whatsoever about using fear to divide.

Evidence, please, demonstrating that the White House has manipulated threat levels leading up to elections.
… in another section, Edwards says, “As president, I will close Guantanamo Bay, restore habeas corpus, and ban torture.” I’d love for him to spell out what interrogation techniques would be permitted under an Edwards Administration. Let’s say we catch a guy with known and well-established ties to al-Qaeda, but we don’t know whether it’s a “ticking bomb” scenario or not; we don’t know what he knows. What are U.S. authorities permitted to do to him if he refuses to answer questions?
… Moving along, Edwards declares, “As president, I will only use offensive force after all other options including diplomacy have been exhausted, and after we have made efforts to bring as many countries as possible to our side.” Okay, but how would he, or any other President, know that all other options have been exhausted? How do you know with 100 percent certainty that no additional efforts, concessions, negotiations, requests, or efforts at persuasion will bring on additional allies? When is it considered enough?
This promise seems pretty tough to believe, and/or enforce: “But I will also remove any civilian or military officer who stifles debate or simply tells me what I want to hear.”
This section seems to be a direct rebuke of Obama’s proposal to increase the size of the Army and Marines:

The problem of our force structure is not best dealt with by a numbers game. It is tempting for politicians to try and “out-bid” each other on the number of troops they would add. Some politicians have fallen right in line behind President Bush’s recent proposal to add 92,000 troops between now and 2012, with little rationale given for exactly why we need this many troops—particularly with a likely withdrawal from Iraq.
The numbers game only gets us into the same problems as the president’s approach. We must be more thoughtful about what the troops will actually be used for. Any troops we add today would take a number of years to recruit and train, and so will not help us today in Iraq.
We might need a substantial increase of troops in the Army, Marine Corps, and Special Forces for four reasons: to rebuild from Iraq; to bolster deterrence; to decrease our heavy reliance on Guard and Reserve members in military operations; and to deploy in Afghanistan and any other trouble spots that could develop.
While such proposals are worth close examination, they do not take into account our withdrawal from Iraq—which I believe must occur in about a year. We need to avoid throwing numbers around for political benefit and instead take a broader view. As president, I will carefully assess the post-Iraq threat environment and consult with military commanders to determine the exact number of troops we need and where.

From where I’m sitting, points to Obama. In the unstable and dangerous world we live in, I’d rather have too many troops than too few. Edwards’ pledge — I’ll consult with military commanders — is too vague to be of any value.
This proposal baffles me:

As president, I will send to Congress a National Security Budget that will grow out of a review of our military, our diplomacy, our foreign assistance programs, our intelligence, our global energy, and our homeland security activities. This budget will provide one government-wide strategy for countering nuclear proliferation; a unified strategy for fighting terrorists; a unified strategy for providing security assistance to our allies; and clear guidance for our agencies on how they should set their budget priorities to make these policies work.

How is taking out all national-security related expenditures and putting them in a separate budget document really going to change anything?
Every candidate and their brother wants a better way to do non-military nation-building work (okay, not Ron Paul), so there’s not much unique in Edwards’ call for a ”Marshall Corps, modeled on the military Reserves, of up to 10,000 expert professionals who will help stabilize weak societies, and who will work on humanitarian missions.”
This ranks among the all time empty-promises:

I will harmonize the State Department and Pentagon’s overlapping efforts at diplomacy and stabilization better from the White House.

Schultz and Weinberger respected each other, but fought like cats and dogs. Similar story with Baker and Cheney. Ditto William Cohen and Madeline Albright, Ditto Powell and Rummy. Eventually we will hear about tension between Gates and Rice. The two institutions are like turf-protective Hatfields and McCoys, and some friction is inevitable. They attract different types of people with different mentalities. Sometimes they can work together, but often they prefer different solutions. It’s baked in the cake.
Paging Planet Gore Blog: “”Greening the military” will increase innovation, save millions of dollars, reduce reliance on vulnerable supply lines, and help America lead the fight against global warming.”
I can see the slogan now: “The New Prius Hummer: A bit slower and less up-armored for IEDs, but so much better for the polar bears!”

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