LOLITA C. BALDOR | May 27, 2009 09:31 PM EST
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's national security adviser laid out a sweeping rebuttal Wednesday to former Vice President Dick Cheney's charge that America is less safe under the new administration.
Pointing to increases in defense spending, efforts to get out of Iraq and revamp the strategy for Afghanistan, and a broad campaign to repair the U.S. reputation abroad, retired Marine Gen. James Jones said the nation is safer today than it has been. But, he added, no administration is perfect.
"I think that the former vice president knows full well that perfection is an impossible standard," said Jones, adding that the U.S. can only do everything it can "to keep threats at bay and as far away from our shores as possible."
In recent speeches, Cheney has condemned Obama for ordering the shutdown of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and banning certain harsh interrogation methods for suspected terrorists. Overturning those Bush administration programs, he said, has made the country less safe.
Jones, speaking to an Atlantic Council forum, countered that, "I firmly believe that the United States is not only safe, but will be more secure, and the American people are increasingly safer because of the president's leadership that he has displayed consistently over the last four months both at home and abroad."
Jones said that Guantanamo has served as a recruitment tool for insurgents, and as a result has probably created more terrorists than it detained.
Asked about the administration's new strategy for the Afghanistan war, Jones acknowledged that "the jury is still out" on whether the U.S. and its allies will be able to meet all their goals to improve the country's security, economy and governance. While he said the infusion of 21,000 more troops, combined with efforts to beef up the Afghan army and police, will improve security, he was less certain about the more elusive improvements to the economy and governance.
"We should know within a year if this strategy is going to be successful," said Jones, a former commandant of the Marine Corps and head of U.S. European Command.