Editor's note: Readers have asked about the statement issued last week by a group of 26 retired senior U.S. diplomats and military officers calling themselves Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change. While not endorsing Democratic challenger John Kerry, the group did call for the defeat of President Bush in this fall's election. Its members include former ambassadors Jack F. Matlock Jr. and William C. Harrop, Adm. William Crowe, and Gens. Joseph Hoar and Merrill (Tony) McPeak. The text of the group's statement, edited only for style, appears here:
The undersigned have held positions of responsibility for the planning and execution of American foreign and defense policy. Collectively, we have served every president since Harry S. Truman. Some of us are Democrats, some are Republicans or Independents, many voted for George W. Bush. But we all believe that current administration policies have failed in the primary responsibilities of preserving national security and providing world leadership. Serious issues are at stake. We need a change.
From the outset, President Bush adopted an overbearing approach to America's role in the world, relying upon military might and righteousness, insensitive to the concerns of traditional friends and allies and disdainful of the United Nations. Instead of building upon America's great economic and moral strength to lead other nations in a coordinated campaign to address the causes of terrorism and to stifle its resources, the administration, motivated more by ideology than by reasoned analysis, struck out on its own. It led the United States into an ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain. It justified the invasion of Iraq by manipulation of uncertain intelligence about weapons of mass destruction and by a cynical campaign to persuade the public that Saddam Hussein was linked to Al-Qaida and the attacks of Sept. 11. The evidence did not support this argument.
Our security has been weakened. While American airmen and women, marines, soldiers and sailors have performed gallantly, our armed forces were not prepared for military occupation and nation building. Public opinion polls throughout the world report hostility toward us. Muslim youth are turning to anti-American terrorism. Never in the 2¼ centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated among the nations, so broadly feared and distrusted. No loyal American would question our ultimate right to act alone in our national interest; but responsible leadership would not turn to unilateral military action before diplomacy had been thoroughly explored.
The United States suffers from close identification with autocratic regimes in the Muslim world, and from the perception of unquestioning support for the policies and actions of the present Israeli government. To enhance credibility with Islamic peoples we must pursue courageous, energetic and balanced efforts to establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and policies that encourage responsible democratic reforms.
We face profound challenges in the 21st century: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, unequal distribution of wealth and the fruits of globalization, terrorism, environmental degradation, population growth in the developing world, HIV/ AIDS, ethnic and religious confrontations. Such problems cannot be resolved by military force, nor by the sole remaining superpower alone; they demand patient, coordinated global effort under the leadership of the United States.
The Bush administration has shown that it does not grasp these circumstances of the new era and is not able to rise to the responsibilities of world leadership in either style or substance. It is time for a change.
© 2004 Star Tribune.