President Barack Obama made his first visit to a Muslim nation on Monday as leader of the “free world” and declared that the United States "is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.”
In his address to the Turkish parliament, he called for a greater partnership with the Islamic world and said that Turkey was an important U.S. ally in many areas, including the fight against terrorism.
He called for a greater bond between Americans and Muslims, and said that terrorist groups such as al-Qaida did not represent the vast majority of Muslims.
"Let me say this as clearly as I can," he said. "The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical . . . in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."
At the same time the president was speaking in Turkey, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he planned to cut 15 percent of the missile defense program, and recommended stopping production of the F-22 fighter jet and scrapping a new helicopter for the president as he outlined deep cuts to many of the military's biggest weapons programs.
Gates said his $534 billion budget proposal for the Department of Defense represents a "fundamental overhaul" in defense acquisition and reflects a shift in priorities from fighting conventional wars to the newer threats U.S. forces face from insurgents in places such as Afghanistan.
He said that we must "fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years to come, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks."
As I see it, the message from President Obama is the right one, and although it’s been said almost verbatim by President George W. Bush and the preceding three or four presidents, the mainstream media is acting like it’s the first time they’ve ever heard it.
We are not at war, and we should not be, with the Muslim world or Islam; however, we cannot forget or ignore the fact that radical Islamic extremists are at war with us and will stop at nothing, including death to themselves, to achieve victories in their war.
Secretary Gate’s plan to restructure the Defense Department to address the unconventional threats against us is a must, but we need to very careful not to lose sight of the conventional threats we face; countries like Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and North Korea — three of which are being run by egotistical lunatics that would like nothing more than to see the collapse of the mighty United States of America.
If we’re going to slash defense spending, I think we really need to rethink cutting funds for the missile defense shield program.
I may be a bit “gun shy” if you will, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to announce we’re cutting missile defense just one day after North Korea launched the longest-range three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile they have yet to build, coupled with its troubling nuclear program, which by all accounts is being developed for capabilities required to strike the United States.
With North Korea and Iran in a marathon race to acquire nuclear capabilities, the reality is that we could be placing our allies and ourselves in serious jeopardy.
An immediate problem scenario is that our allies may feel that we are losing our ability to come to their aide in the event of an attack and they seek that protection elsewhere. This could be devastating to our friendships in the Arab region and Eastern Europe that have taken years to foster.
I am all for cutting government spending and management accountability, but not at the cost of our national security.
North Korea’s recent act of defiance in launching that missile, coupled with the fact that the United Nation’s Security Counsel has proven time and time again that is has neither the courage or capability of holding rouge states and their leadership accountable for egregious violations of U.N. resolutions, is a clear demonstration why we must not cut this program.
Bernard B. Kerik was the 40th police commissioner of New York City. Visit his Web site: www.thekerikgroup.com.
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