Defense: Neglected, ignored, and fought against – by Republicans

We all know that we cannot count on the Democrats to maintain America’s current defense, let alone strengthen it. Even the first glance at the unfavorable arms reduction treaty the Obama Administration has recently negotiated, its defense budgets or its Nuclear Posture Review (which says America won’t retaliate with nuclear weapons even if attacked with chemical or biological weapons by a foreign country) reveals this. It has been known for many decades that the Democratic Party is the party of a weak defense. Hundreds of Democratic politicians and an entire string of Democratic governments – from the Kennedy Administration to the Obama Administration – confirmed this.

What is surprising is that many Republicans also oppose a strong US military.

The easiest-to-point-out example is Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who, according to the 2010 CPAC straw poll, is the most popular potential GOP presidential candidate (even though he’ll be 77 in 2012). During the 2010 CPAC, he delivered an incoherent, unconservative speech directed not against liberalism, not against Barack Obama, but against a strong defense, which he derisively called ”the military-industrial complex” (this is the favorite straw man of liberals, by the way). Instead of booing him, the CPAC crowd loudly applauded his anti-defense jeer.

The results of the CPAC straw poll itself were disappointing. One of the questions asked, ”which statement comes the closest to your beliefs and ideology?”. Understandably, 58% chose the statement that spoke about reducing the size and the scope of the government. But the statement that prioritized defense and protecting America from its enemies – which was deliberately worded to suggest it was a Big Government statement to make it sound bad – received the votes of only 7% of participants. The statement that prioritized protecting unborn children and traditional marriage received 9%.

So for the participants of CPAC, dictating to American women what they are not allowed to do, and dictating to people whom they can or cannot marry, is more important than defense, which was relegated to the very last place on that list of issues.

A day before the 2010 CPAC, a group of ”conservative” leaders went to Mount Vernon and wrote the Mount Vernon Statement, a statement that reaffirmed every conservative principle… except the principle that a strong defense is necessary to protect America from her enemies. That one wasn’t mentioned at all.

Also troubling are some of 2010 GOP candidates for the Congress. Look at the campaign websites of Rob Portman (an Ohio candidate for the Senate), John Hoeven (ND), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Tom Campbell (CA), or Sue Lowden (NV). Neither defense nor the broader term „national security” is even listed on their website as a campaign issue, even though it is a Constitutional duty of the federal government. If elected to the Senate, these people might sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and will certainly be presented with defense budgets to vote on. How can they not even write one word about defense?

There are also reasons to be worried about incumbent Republican politicians. Running for a 5th consecutive term is Senator John McCain, who loudly praised and defended Obama’s defense cuts, including the decision to close the F-22 program and cut the airborne laser program. Because the F-22 program is closed, the US military is now reliant on a single, troubled, tri-service fighterplane program, the F-35, which is supposed to yield 2443 jets for the US military. Absurdly, this chief Republican advocate of a weak defense will become the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee if the GOP recaptures the Senate.

Another example is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who also praised Obama’s defense cuts.

No less troublesome is the Republican ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, who will become its chairman (for the third time) if the GOP retakes the Senate. Lugar is one of the chief backers of nuclear disarmament and misled the American people about the missile defense clause of the recently-negotiated START-3 treaty.

Among those who don’t appreciate the need for a strong defense is also young author Jonathan Krohn, who has been named the leader of the next generation of conservative Republicans. His definition of conservatism, and his book that extrapolates on the subject, doesn’t include or even mention defense at all, but it does include social conservatism.

Examples of Republican opponents of a strong defense abound. During the 1990s, the GOP-dominated Congress did not reverse or even stop Clinton’s defense cuts – it approved them. During the Bush era, the Bush OMB was eager to reduce the defense budget and Secretary Rumsfeld restrained aircraft modernization programs. But the current Republican politicians are the most worrisome ones. They will be the ones making the decisions on America’s defense, if the GOP recaptures the Congress, whether this year or during another election year.

Of course, there are several Republican advocates of a strong defense. Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Pence and Tim Pawlenty, for example. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with them on the rest of issues, it’s hard to argue that they want a weak defense, on the basis of what is known about their beliefs.

But they are ”standouts”, exceptions from a crowd of people who don’t really appreciate how important defense is and why it is needed. Defense is nowadays seldom heard of, unless the Obama Administration is announcing new defense cuts or other pacifist policies, and most Republicans don’t seem to care. Many Republican politicians don’t even bother to oppose these policies.

Thus, today’s GOP is totally different from the Republican Party of the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s or the early 2000s, when defense was one of the most important issues for Republicans, both candidates and incumbent officials and lawmakers, whether it was candidate Barry Goldwater, candidate/President Ronald Reagan, or candidate George W. Bush.

Today’s GOP doesn’t seem to care about the single most important issue on Earth, and usually, when it protests against Democrats’ policies, it protests mildly and doesn’t attack the fundamental principles upon which the Dems’ weak-defense policies are made.

Defense has very few friends and many enemies, some of whom are Republicans.

It is time to re-commit the GOP to a strong US military. If the Congress and the White House don’t get this issue right, no other political issue will matter.

Zbigniew Mazurak blogs at

Originally posted at:


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