In a major foreign policy address to the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire, Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) first blasted the Bush administration for their failures in dealing with al-Qaeda, and then he laid out his own plan for al-Qaeda. “Al Qaeda was on the ropes in 2002, cornered in the badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. If our troops had been given the resources they needed, we could have finished them off. But the President chose instead to divert our resources from that necessary war to a war of choice. Mr. Bush did not have a plan. But Al Qaeda did,” Richardson said.

He then moved on to talking about his strategy for defeating al-Qaeda. “A new grand strategy against the al Qaeda movement must repair this damage that the Bush policies have done to our international reputation. In particular, we need to reach out to Muslims, and demonstrate — by our actions as well as our words — that we respect Muslim culture and value Muslim life. The target of our military strategy needs to be the al Qaeda leadership. As long as these men are active, they symbolize the success of resistance to America, and attract new recruits. It is not good enough to have them ‘hiding in caves.’ The death or capture of Osama bin Ladin and his associates in Pakistan and Afghanistan will not end the Al Qaeda movement, but it will deal it a serious setback, the governor said.

Richardson also talked about the importance of being successful in Afghanistan. “A critical first step is to enhance our commitment — military, political and economic — to Afghanistan. Saving Afghanistan will require a multilateral Marshall Planan effort on the scale of what rebuilt Europe after the Second World War. These efforts also must extend into Pakistan. The border regions are poverty-stricken breeding grounds for Jihadism. We need to read the riot act to Dick Cheney’s pal, President Musharraf. We have provided him with $10 billion, in mostly military aid. Future aid must be linked to a real crackdown on terrorists — including Arabs, Afghans and Kashmiris.”

Richardson said that in order to defeat al-Qaeda the U.S. must get out of Iraq. “Iraq is also a critical battlefield in the fight against Jihadism — because it prevents us from fully engaging the core Al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our enemies want us to remain bogged down in Iraq. Let me say that again — Al Qaeda benefits from our being trapped in Iraq, and wants us to stay there. They know that if we were not stuck in Iraq, we could go after them where they are. They know that the Shia and the Kurds in Iraq don’t want them there, and that many Sunni Iraqis tolerate them only because they are allies against us. When we leave, they know the Iraqis will drive them out of Iraq. We cannot defeat Al Qaeda until we get out of Iraq. An orderly, phased and complete troop withdrawal could be completed rapidly — and it is imperative that it be complete.”

He then mentioned the need for better homeland security. “We also must address homeland security much more strategically than we have. A biological or nuclear attack could be as horrific as Hiroshima — and terrorism experts agree that sooner or later such an attack is likely. We must do everything we can to prevent this — and we must improve our ability to respond quickly if an attack occurs, to assist the victims, and to recover,” said Governor Richardson.

Richardson concluded by stressing the need for better leadership. “With the right American leadership, the world will follow us as we put these people out of business. We need leadership that understands the nature of the enemy, and focuses on the real terrorists who attacked us on 9-11. Leadership that recognizes that we must lead by example, that our deeds must match our words, and that we are strongest — and safest — when we use all of our resources — military, economic, diplomatic, humanitarian and political.”

In summary, Richardson would get out of Iraq so that resources are freed up to go after al-Qaeda, strengthen Afghanistan so al-Qaeda couldn’t return there, use U.S. military operations to target al-Qaeda leadership, reach out to Muslims and try to win their hearts and minds, and strengthen homeland security. What Richardson said today wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t unique either. These seem to be the standard goals within the Democratic Party. I do give Richardson lots of credit for putting the spotlight back on al-Qaeda though. So far none of the other candidates have actually talked about how they would deal with the threat al-Qaeda poses. Giuliani brings up al-Qaeda for political purposes all the time, but has never talked about how he would handle the threat of al-Qaeda. Overall this was a solid, if not spectacular, speech from Governor Richardson.

Bill Richardson’s speech.

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at


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