There is currently a debate ongoing in the Republican Party and in the American electorate at large whether or not to cut defense spending, and if so, by how much; what weapon systems to nix, if any; which missions and commitments to end; how to size the military; which allies to defend; and when, if ever, to intervene militarily abroad.
Unsurprisingly, extremists on both sides of the spectrum are demanding extremist, damaging policies. Libertarians and liberals want to deeply cut defense spending (while claiming it that it still hasn’t been cut), modernization programs, the military’s force structure, and end strength; end all commitments to all of America’s allies; and renounce military interventions abroad completely, hiding behind oceans and retrenching into an illusory “Fortress America”, despite the fact that one nuclear weapon, delivered by a Chinese, Russian, or North Korean ICBM at a high altitude above the US, would set America back to the dark age. On the other hand, neocon promiscous interventionists want the US to involve itself in every war around the world without Congressional authorization.
Both of these sides are wrong. Both of their policies are wrong and unfeasible. However, contrary to the claims of those like Jarrett Steppman of HE who claim that these are the only foreign policy options available to the US government and to the voters, there is a third option, which is much better than the other two. I first outlined this foreign policy philosophy on Conservatives4Palin.com in early 2011 and repeated it, in more detail, in the pages of the American Thinker in October.
I propose the following defense/foreign policy consensus:
1) The US must always have a strong defense and must generously fund it (so the defense cuts ordered by the debt ceiling deal and the sequester should be completely reversed), and equip it with all it needs. Funding should be prioritized and devoted first and foremost to those missions most critical to America’s survival: nuclear deterrence, missile defense, cyberdefense, long range strike, and homeland defense. However, other missions should be funded adequately, too.
2) That does not, however, mean that taxpayers should write a blank check to the Pentagon. Because the DOD has been tasked with the government’s most important function, waste at the DOD is even less excusable than waste at other government agencies. The Secretary of Defense must review the entire budget, line by line, excise everything that is not necessary, and reinvest the money in those programs that are critical to America’s survival. He should start with his own travel budget, which Secretary Panetta has been abusing.
3) The US should continue to defend its treaty allies, provided that they are willing to invest seriously in defending themselves. As President Nixon said, “We shall do our share in keeping peace around the world. But we shall expect others to do their share.”
4) The US should intervene militarily abroad only when its crucial interests or key allies are threatened and only if all non-war means of ending the crisis have been tried and failed. If there is an imminent threat to America (e.g. if enemy SSBNs have been detected off US shores, or if terrorists have acquired a nuclear weapon, or a rogue state is threatening an imminent launch of ballistic missiles), the President should intervene immediately; but if there is no imminent threat, the President must ask for Congressional authorization.
Those are the basic principles and policies of the defense/foreign affairs consensus that I’m proposing. You know who originally invented these ideas? It wasn’t me. It was President Reagan. His policy of rebuilding the military and funding it generously while intervening, after 1983, only in countries where the US REALLY needed to intervene was not only the right policy, it was a very popular policy which helped him win the presidential elections of 1980 and 1984 by a landslide. And I’m absolutely sure that it would be a very popular policy today, if embraced by a presidential candidate.
According to a recent poll, 82% of Americans oppose the sequester’s defense cuts and didn’t want the Super Committee to impose any further budget cuts on the Pentagon, either. According to other polls, 52%-57% of Americans oppose any defense budget cuts. But at the same time, polls show that a majority of Americans wants American troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan and Iraq as soon as possible. So a majority of Americans – possibly even a huge majority – professes an opinion on these issues that is practically the same as my policy proposal.
I hope at least one Republican Presidential candidate will embrace it.