Sunday, March 30, 2008

4 Senate Candidates Views on Iraq, the Broader War on Terror, and the Military

Since originally having this column printed, it appears that Tony Raimondo's position has swung to the left and I would have to amend my closing comments. I now have serious doubts about his position on the war in Iraq.

Senate Candidates Answer Questions on Iraq, National Security, Military

I recently posed questions to four of our candidates running for U.S. Senate on the issues of Iraq, the broader war on terrorism, national security, and the military. Three of them provided enough detail to write entire columns about. I’ve provided the representative highlights.

Pat Flynn initially contacted me to discuss these issues. In Iraq, he believes in continuing to fight Al Qaeda and seeing “The Surge” through to completion, noting that “he’s always believed in it.” He added that we’ve failed in sending the message about the broader implications for winning in Iraq, and that we need to let the Generals fight the war, not the Senators. Too often politics is trumping national security.

He sees the war against Islamic extremists as a war in which America needs to have “resolve and perseverance,” one in which we must never be willing to give up, citing Churchill’s resolve during World War II. In that light, he notes this fight against terrorism as more than just a fight with Osama bin Laden.

Flynn sees China and illegal immigration as concerns for national security.

He also believes that our military is currently under-funded and that we must give them what they need to win, and then take care of them when they come home.

Via e-mail, Tony Raimondo provided detailed answers on these issues.

On Al Qaeda in Iraq, he expressed that “It is important that in the effort to defeat terrorism around the globe we must continue to fight Al Qaeda and other terrorists in Iraq.” He is “not for setting an arbitrary date for troop withdrawal,” prefers “transferring authority for security and military operations to the Iraqis as quickly as possible,” and focusing our efforts “on the missions that are in our national security interests.” He specifically noted that “we do not have an open-ended commitment there.”

Raimondo feels that “a strong partnership with NATO in Afghanistan will ease the burden on our own military and send a message to the world that defeating terrorism is a global initiative, not a U.S. unilateral endeavor.”

He says our military needs “The three R’s - recruitment, retention, replenishment” and that “The Pentagon and the Congress need to devise a plan to replenish our military, to ensure our soldiers are properly trained and equipped so they can meet the national security challenges of tomorrow.”

Mr. Raimondo also feels it’s important “to keep our promise as a nation to our returning soldiers and veterans. They have sacrificed much for our country…Our returning heroes shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves. We owe it to them to give them the care they need.”

In a phone call with Secretary Johanns, he provided comments which were quite thorough in each of these areas.

He’s been to Iraq and has no doubts that Al Qaeda is there. In Iraq and elsewhere, he believes Al Qaeda is “an enemy like none we’ve ever fought, intent on ending our role in the world. We can’t walk away from that.” He further believes there is no question that the war on terrorism is very real, not just a few isolated events of extremism we need to confront.

He says he would like to see the Iraqi government doing more and moving faster, but understands the challenges inherent to their country and the birth pains of a new democracy.

Johanns believes we need to send messages to both the Iraqis and our troops that we will stand behind them, especially given the success our troops have had with “The Surge” and the recent progress of the Iraqis, politically and militarily, under difficult circumstances.

He, as did Raimondo, noted several countries as ones to watch and others as allies to work with. He cited his experience as Secretary of Agriculture working with representatives from many of those countries as an opportunity to build upon.

“We need to stand behind our troops,” Johanns implored, noting his dismay over the mixed signals we send them with the politics surrounding the war. Not only was he adamant about equipping them to win any conflict, but to also care for a lifetime of needs when they return.

Scott Kleeb’s stand on these issues is not defined, or even outlined for that matter.

Ambiguous answers to previous questions by others showed through in the response to the same detailed questions I posed to all the candidates. The Kleeb camp simply replied that they were still building their campaign and not yet ready to answer detailed questions on these issues.

We’ll have to wait for his answers to one of the “biggest issues facing America,” and see how influential his contacts with the radical, far left, defeatists at the Daily Kos are to those answers.

It appears Nebraskans are fortunate to have three candidates who’ve taken solid positions on these issues which reflect the reality of the challenges in Iraq, the rest of the war on terrorism, national security, and our military.

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