Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defended President Barack Obama’s handling of recent terrorism threats, taking issue with former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticism.
“It’s unfair,” Lugar said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “I think the president is focused.”
Cheney, who frequently has led Republican attacks on the Democratic president since leaving office a year ago, told Politico on Dec. 29 that Obama “is trying to pretend we are not at war” with a “low-key response” to the Dec. 25 attempt to ignite a bomb aboard a flight to Detroit.
To the contrary, Obama has demonstrated “firmness” and “decisiveness,” Lugar, who represents Indiana, said. “That’s been the antidote to the criticism.”
Still, the U.S. may be focusing too much on Afghanistan at a time when al-Qaeda is finding havens in other hot spots such as Yemen and Somalia, Lugar said. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian indicted in the Detroit plane plot, allegedly received his training in Yemen.
“I suspect that we will have to try to think through why we went to Afghanistan,” Lugar, 77, said.
After eliminating the al-Qaeda training camps there, the U.S. undertook “nation-building” beyond traditional development aid, he said. Projects such as advancing democracy, ensuring girls can attend school and promoting agriculture to replace poppy cultivation, while laudable, have cost “tens of thousands of people, hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said.
“And now we find even Afghanistan is not exactly making the progress we hoped,” Lugar said.
U.S. intelligence agencies have heeded the potential threats from unstable states such as Yemen and Somalia, and will have to do more to understand the origins of terrorist attacks and why young Muslims get involved, Lugar said.
“We have to see the comprehensive nature of this, how many countries have potentially failing governments or very weak governments in which al-Qaeda could” have some influence, Lugar said.
As airline security improves, al-Qaeda and other terrorists targeting the U.S. will seek other ways to attack, Lugar said.
Americans “may be inclined to feel that once you solve the aircraft problem, somehow or other you’re in better shape,” Lugar said.
The administration has properly calibrated its support for the opposition in Iran, verbally and through activities such as ensuring they have access to telecommunications that allow them to maintain contact.
“We ought to indicate that, as a matter of fact, that we support liberty,” Lugar said. “We support the building of institutions.”
One pivot point in countries such as Iran or Yemen or Pakistan has been the young people, Lugar said. While some are leading the way in challenging autocratic regimes such as the one in Iran, others are susceptible to the lures of extremist ideology, he said.
“Our intelligence focus has got to be very comprehensively on why young people would go in this direction, and if they do, who they are,” Lugar said.
By contrast, in Iran, “the young people are well ahead of us” and taking charge of the situation, Lugar said. “With the young people, the promise is the best, I think.”
Lugar is a qt old man even though he's a Republican <3 I didn't realize he was 77 though wao D: