One of the lessons Reagan taught us conservatives is about defense.
Reagan taught us that only a strong defense (i.e. a strong military) can protect America. He said, “I witnessed 4 wars during my lifetime, and none of them [the 4 wars – ZM] began because America was too strong”. He protested against Carter’s disastrous defense cuts. As president, he saw many times what happens when a country weakens its own military: other countries try to use the resulting opportunity to attack that country or its allies, or intimidate them. As President, Ronald Reagan rebuilt the US military and won the arms race against the USSR. The Soviet economy couldn’t match Reagan’s big defense budgets, and collapsed as a result.
Even though Reagan inherited a 6% budget deficit, he refused to reduce defense spending, even though many people asked him to do so. Some liberals even demanded that he reduce defense spending by 50%. Yet Reagan increased the defense budget while halving the federal budgetary deficit from 6% of GDP to 3% of GDP.
Reagan, unlike President Bush, SECDEF Rumsfeld, President Obama and SECDEF Gates, believed that the US military must be prepared to tackle ALL kinds of threats, and not just a select few enemies. He equipped the military to deter nuclear-armed enemies, defeat conventional militaries, and prevail over irregular combatants (e.g. terrorists). He also created the SDI program – a multi-target missile defense program which was designed to intercept ALL types of ballistic missiles.
Contrast Reagan’s defense policy to that of Secretary Rumsfeld and that of Secretary Gates. They both believe that the only threats America is confronting now, and the only threat that America will ever confront, are/will be irregular threats (terrorist organizations and guerilla armies). They don’t believe that Russia, China, North Korea, Iran or Venezuela constitute any kind of threat. Consequently, they’ve closed dozens of necessary conventional weapon programs and significantly reduced America’s nuclear arsenal, even as the nuclear arsenals of China and North Korea are growing. They’ve also cut missile defense to a “light version” – one designed solely to intercept short-range missiles and intermediate-range BMs. They deny that the ICBM threat is real or growing – as if Russia, China and North Korea didn’t exist.
Everyone should learn from Ronald Reagan.