Since the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, “Americans are more fearful about the likelihood of another terrorist attack than at any other time since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001,” the New York Times reported.
With terrorism at the forefront of national attention, on Monday, December 14, No Labels Co-Chairs Jon Huntsman and Joe Lieberman held a live conversation about national security. According to No Labels:
“In these troubled times, national security is a deadly serious issue. Or at least it should be. But what we’re getting from our political leaders is more of the same petty partisanship that infects all issue debates. It’s outrageous and indefensible. And it needs to end now.”
No Labels is a movement dedicated to transforming our divisive political environment by focusing on problem solving. Founded in 2010, it urges candidates and lawmakers to “stop fighting and start fixing.”
During the event, in which attendees were encouraged to submit questions and comments on Facebook, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman discussed the threats of domestic and international terrorism within the context of the efforts of the No Labels organization.
National security and threats of terrorism epitomize the need, as Huntsman explained, “to move this country from anger, finger pointing and animosity toward a world of problem solving.”
“The American people are a common sense bunch. We’re blue sky optimistic dreamers; we always have been. And when Americans pull together, nothing can stand in their way. We’ve always been able to achieve big goals in the past, the poison of partisanship has left us divided and unable to do what the nation needs done.” -Jon Huntsman
Both Huntsman and Lieberman agreed that the proper response is for Americans to unite on traditional values of decency and respect. These are the things that “most Americans can rally around,” stated Huntsman.
“We’ve got to demand that of our leaders,” Lieberman added.
Huntsman maintained that America needs to “put some points on the board… we need to make our system of government work.”
“There’s nothing like success,” he asserted, citing how progress on the “big issues” of jobs, energy self-sufficiency, entitlement reform, and a balanced budget are needed to restore the sense of confidence which is lacking in our society.
As Huntsman further elaborated:
“When the U.S. system works effectively and efficiently, we are the envy of the world… when we’re broken and dysfunctional and divided at home, it makes it very difficult for us to promote the values which have made this world a better, safer, more prosperous place… The world functions better when America is at its best.” - Jon Huntsman
"The first responsibility of the federal government is to protect our national security… this is the one area where we simply won’t tolerate partisanship,” Lieberman said.
He added that these issues need to be addressed on a bipartisan basis, similar to the intelligence and security reforms that took place after 9/11.“We’ve got to demand that our elected officials in Washington, if nothing else, pull together on this to protect our security,” he said.
The right path requires strong, unified, and nonpartisan leadership.
“When America is stymied by partisan politics in its foreign policy, it unsettles our allies and encourages our enemies,” according to Lieberman.
Lieberman also spoke of the use of diplomacy and economic assistance rather than military force. He cited “the power of example” as what led to post-WWII successes, not punitive measures.
Winning the battle will result when Americans return to feeling secure about their future, whether traveling abroad or simply carrying on with their daily activities.
“This doesn’t need to be a daily obsession like it is today,” Lieberman commented.
Yet, Lieberman described the war on terrorism as a very unconventional one:
“This is essentially a conflict within the Muslim world; between a minority who are extremists and terrorists, and the great majority who are not. We have to do everything we can to empower the majority to defeat that minority.” - Joe Lieberman
Huntsman described the current situation as an inflection point in history, similar to the post-war periods of 1919 and 1945. In 1919, he contended that we made the wrong choices, leading to depression, the rise of anarchy, totalitarianism, and another war. Conversely, in 1945, policies were created which fostered peace, prosperity, and stability.
“The choices that are going to be made by those we put in power and the agendas like those we’re behind at No Labels” will determine whether the U.S. follows a path of peace or throws the world into chaos, Huntsman concluded.
In the most recent NY Times/CBS News poll, 25% of Americans cited terrorism, Islamic extremists, or guns as the most important problems facing the country today. One month ago, the same poll reported this level at only five percent.
Perhaps next month, our fears will once again settle down. The real goal, of course, is to look ahead with a more lasting resolution to concerns about our safety.