Edwards on National Security, Like Obama on Pakistan

John Edwards today rolled out his plan to deal with terrorism and the national security challenges of the 21st century with a mix of proposals designed to increase America’s popularity abroad and improve international intelligence gathering.

While most of the speech, given at Pace University this afternoon, focused on the increased use of soft power to improve America’s standing in the world, he specifically said “I want to be clear about one thing: if we have actionable intelligence about imminent activity and the Pakistan government refuses to act, we will.”

Barack Obama was criticized as naïve by the Clinton campaign for expressing exactly that view.

Edwards also called for a tougher stance towards Saudi Arabia, but the lynchpin of his speech was a proposed international intelligence sharing body – “a multilateral organization called the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization.”

CITO, as Edwards called the body, would play a similar role to other supranational organizations like NATO, Interpol and the United Nations.

“We need new institutions designed to share intelligence, cooperate across borders and take out small, hostile groups,” he said.

He also proposed “1,000 new annual scholarships to improve language skills for students who pursue careers in intelligence and diplomacy” and said he would create a “Global Nuclear Compact” to strengthen the non-proliferation treaty.

Despite multiple references to the “boldness” of his plan, Edwards’ proposals were for the most part uncontroversial – he wants to give American mosques incentives to fight extremism, increase America’s civilian presence abroad for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts and get young people more involved in building good will towards America.

He did, however, find time to take some political shots.

“Some politicians, like Rudolph Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain have responded to the shortcomings and backfires of the administration’s approach by essentially doubling down,” he said, adding a veiled shot at Hillary Clinton who has said some security measures have improved since Sept. 11: “Some running for the Democratic nomination have even argued that the Bush-Cheney approach has made us safer. It has not.”

(Moments earlier, Edwards said, “There is no doubt that some progress has been made.” He added “Our federal government has been substantially rearranged, and many problems corrected.”)

The philosophical drive behind Edwards’ proposals seems to be that America must win friends in the world, because if not it will make itself “a generation of enemies.”

“That depends on us,” he said.