Lugar questions US policies on Iraq, terrorism
Criticizes neglect of allies, use of force in speech
MEDFORD -- In an unusually blunt criticism of US foreign policy from a member of the president's own political party, Richard G. Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that the United States' neglect of foreign allies and overreliance on military force is placing the nation at risk of terrorist attack.
''Military action is necessary to defeat serious and immediate threats to our national security. But the war on terrorism will not be won through attrition, particularly since military action will often breed more terrorists and more resentment of the United States," the Indiana senator told an international audience of more than 300 students of diplomacy graduating from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
''Unless the United States commits itself to a sustained program of repairing and building alliances, expanding trade, pursuing resolutions to regional conflicts, supporting democracy and development worldwide, and controlling weapons of mass destruction, we are likely to experience acts of catastrophic terrorism" that could kill thousands if not millions, Lugar said.
''The United States, as a nation, simply has not made this commitment," he said. ''We are worried about terrorism, but the evolution of national security policy has not kept up with the threat. We have relied heavily on military options and unilateral approaches that have weakened our alliances."
Lugar's speech, titled ''Lugar says US is not committed to staving off catastrophic terrorism," comes at a time of rising anxiety among some congressional Republicans about the Bush administration's handling of postwar Iraq. The June 30 deadline for the transfer of power, prisoner abuse scandals, and military fighting have contributed to the unease.
President Bush is scheduled to give a speech tomorrow at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., that is expected to outline the White House's strategy for the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis and the gradual reduction of US military operations in the region.
A five-term senator and former Rhodes scholar, Lugar is known for his independent streak. He advocated school desegregation in the 1960s, the abolition of apartheid in the 1980s, and has pushed efforts in Congress to combat acid rain and dismantle nuclear weapons in former Soviet states.
Lugar never mentioned the president by name, but said he blames Congress and the White House for the ''cavalier way we're approaching foreign policy." He said he does not view himself as a critic of the president, but as someone ''trying to help perfect the foreign policy."
''My role is, I think, as a friend of the president," Lugar said. ''I am a friend of the president, and I've tried to be helpful."
Lugar said he is anxious to hear the president explain how the US-backed coalition will hand off control of Iraq's 25 ministries and how the country's stability will be maintained, in the face of continued violence and unrest.
The abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison has ''pushed international resentment and distrust of the United States to levels unprecedented in recent times," Lugar said. ''I am very hopeful that the president and his administration will articulate precisely what is going to happen, as much as they can, day by day, as opposed to a generalization that sovereignty will pass, that somehow security will be provided," Lugar said before the speech.
The White House said it was pursuing the approach suggested by Lugar. ''Senator Lugar is a respected voice in foreign affairs, and we take his views seriously," a White House spokeswoman, Suzy DeFrancis, said. ''We agree that the global war on terror must be fought on many different fronts: military, diplomatic, trade, and economic fronts. This administration is using all those means."
But William R. Moomaw, professor of international environmental policy at the Fletcher School, said Lugar's speech underscored ''this isolationist reaction in the public and in Congress."
''That's the way this administration came in," Moomaw said. ''We don't need the UN, we don't need allies, we don't need anybody. We are the most powerful nation on earth, and we can do it.
''What [Lugar] is saying is, that was a big mistake," Moomaw said.