Myth: “Defense hawks dominate the GOP”

I’m no mythologist, but every now and then, I refute myths, inclusing sometimes longstanding ones. And this is what I’m going to do today: disprove the myth that the GOP is dominated by “defense hawks”. This claim has been repeatedly made by the opponents of a strong defense in order to mislead the public that the GOP is dominated by defense conservatives and is unwilling to cut defense spending. Michael Tanner claims that fiscal conservatives feel underrepresented and ignored in a Republican Party “dominated by social conservatives and defense hawks”, while Jack Hunter falsely claims that “unlimited Pentagon spending is the Big Government Program that too many Republicans love”.

Do “defense hawks” really dominate the GOP? The answer is no. In fact, we defense conservatives have little, if any, influence on the Party and are now being thrown out of it and ignored by fiscal conservatives, who now have a stranglehold on the GOP.

And the evidence of that is the policies actually adopted by the federal government AND the Republican Party over the last 3 years.

In April 2009, Obama unveiled the first part of his series of massive defense cuts: the close of over 30 crucial weapon programs (including the F-22, the Zumwalt class, the next-gen bomber program, the MKV, the KEI, etc.) which, by his own SECDEF’s admission, cut $330 bn out of defense accounts. These program closures have rendered the US military ill-prepared for future threats, such as China and Russia, both of which have flown, and are testing, their own 5th generation stealthy fighters, while the US has closed the F-22 production line. I urged everyone, including Republican members of Congress, to stop these defense cuts. But in vain. Many Republicans voted for them and some, such as John McCain and Michael Gerson, even spoke out in favor of them.

In February 2010, Obama unveiled further defense cuts, including the closure of the C-17 production line and the CGX cruiser program and the EPX aircraft project. At the same time, he unveiled a rigged Quadrennial Defense Review that was fitted to the budget and served as a pseudo-justification for these defense cuts. Again, the Congress approved these defense cuts.

In April 2010, Obama signed a disastrous, lopsided New START treaty which favors Russia. It obligated the US to reduce its deployed nuclear arsenal to just 1,550 nuclear warheads, and the deployed fleet of delivery systems to 700, while not obliging Russia to make any reductions at all, because at the time the treaty was signed, Russia was below treaty limits (it has now reached them as result of its military buildup and refuses to rule out violating these limits). The Treaty also imposes onerous restrictions on missile defense. I, along with many defense and arms control issues experts, urged the Senate to reject the treaty. But the Senate, including 13 Republicans, committed treason by voting for it… during the lame-duck session, on December 22nd, 2010, AFTER a new Senate had already been elected (but not yet sworn in). And I have yet to see a single Republican Presidential candidate pledge to withdraw the US from that treaty. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are merely willing to “review” and reconsider it. And yet, many of the RINOs who voted for the treaty are still in office, running for reelection, and are supported by prominent RINOs such as George Will and George Shultz.

In January 2011, Secretary Gates, under Obama’s orders, unveiled $100 bn in defense budget efficiencies and $78 bn in defense budget cuts. The Congress passed them.

In April 2011, Obama demanded a further $400 bn in defense budget cuts over adecade. Few Republicans bothered to protest.

In the summer of 2011, the US came close to reaching its debt ceiling, so the issue of a debt ceiling hike arose. Republicans demanded spending cuts in return for a debt ceiling hike and were not willing to agree to any tax increases. Obama and Congressional Democrats then countered: “OK, but you must cut defense most deeply, because we must protect domestic spending.” Around the same time, Grover Norquist was urging the Congress to cut defense spending.  And guess what? Republicans agreed to that. They agreed to the worst deal ever struck in the United States: the 2011 debt ceiling deal.

Under its terms, defense spending faces an immediate $487 bn cut over the next 10 years, an average of $48.7 bn, and will not return to its FY2011 level until FY2019 at the earliest. No other government department will see anything other than minor cuts, if any cuts at all. (Of all FY2012 Appropriations Bills, only the defense App Bill was a real-term cut, while spending on other departments was increased, and Republicans were as happy to do that as Democrats.)

Also under its terms, a Super Committee tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade was appointed. It was due to propose such savings by November 23rd, 2011. However, its members were appointed, solely for political reasons, by Congressional party leaders (Boehner, McConnell, Pelosi, and Reid; Pelosi and Reid appointed 6 strident liberals). The Super Committee, to be sure, was facing a difficult job from the start – it was politically divided and many people, including many Republicans and GOP-leaning journalists (including Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Larry Kudlow, James Capretta, and Kevin Glass) wished it failure and hoped for it to fail (most of them did so because they wanted to see deep defense cuts). To ensure that it would do its job, Congress created the sequestration mechanism, which threatened to impose devastating across-the-board cuts to both the Medicare program (about which Democrats care) and defense (which Republicans supposedly care about).

And yet, the Super Committee utterly failed to do its job, failing to agree on any savings at all, because the Dems were not willing to accept any deal that did not involve tax hikes, and Republicans could not agree to job-killing tax hikes (let alone the ones the Democrats demanded – to the tune of $1 trillion per year). Thus, what many people thought unthinkable happened: the sequester was triggered.

And now that the sequester has been triggered, many Republicans and many so-called “conservative activists” are pressuring the GOP not to undo the sequester and not to protect the DOD from it, even if the sequester’s scheduled defense cuts are swapped for cuts elsewhere of the same amount of money, and are lying about how the military can supposedly survive sequestration and be the world’s strongest (which it already isn’t) even if sequestration proceeds, despite warnings to the contrary from the US military’s top leaders, many other generals, and from the DOD’s civilian leaders, not to mention private defense issues experts. Worse yet, many Republicans, such as Jeff Flake (who is a Flake indeed, and a profligate porker), Connie Mack, and Ron Paul, are running for office on a platform of further defense cuts on top of all those already administered and scheduled. And Congressional Republicans have yet to do anything effective to protect the DOD from sequester.

Meanwhile, numerous supposedly “conservative” and libertarian columnists tell us that we defense conservatives are not conservatives at all, that we are “Big Government liberals”, and that we should be purged from the GOP. One CATO Institute analyst has recently been publicly grousing on the CI’s website about doing that.

Similarly, when it was reported last month that Obama was considering cutting the US nuclear arsenal down to 300 warheads, Congressional Republicans did nothing effective, and the most they could do was to sign a letter begging Obama not to proceed with these cuts (which was signed by only 34 House Republicans out of the 250 or so Republicans currently serving in Congress).

Indeed, what pro-strong defense policy which stooped or rolled back defense cuts have Republicans supported in the last 3 years, and did that policy get enacted into law?

The fact is that since Obama took office, Republicans have been his willing accomplices in his quest to gut America’s defense, and sometimes they were the INITIATORS of such policies.

This proves that the GOP is not dominated by “defense hawks” and is not influenced, and doesn’t listen to, us defense conservatives at all. It ignores us.We defense conservatives don’t have any party that represents us.


2 thoughts on “Myth: “Defense hawks dominate the GOP””

  1. Re: “In fact, we defense conservatives have little, if any, influence on the Party and are now being thrown out of it and ignored by fiscal conservatives, who now have a stranglehold on the GOP.” We must not be reading from the same page, Zbigniew, because the GOP ‘fiscal conservatism’ of which you speak is almost nowhere to be found. Today’s GOP spends just as profligately and irresponsibly as its leftist counterpart, notwithstanding those few members of the Republican caucus who actually practice what they preach. This is part of the reason funds for national defense are in jeopardy in the first place – the refusal of our leaders, GOP and Democrat alike – to restrain entitlement spending.

    1. GB, you mistunderstood me. I was talking about the “grassroots” and middle ranks of the GOP and the ranks of the Tea Party wing of the Congressional GOP, as well as the GOP commentariat. Besides, although the GOP has not tried to cut federal spending seriously, fiscal hawks have more influence on it than defense conservatives. Just as an example, last year, the Congress passed, and the President signed, the BCA, which orders an immediate 487 bn dollar cut of “security-related spending” and which contains a sequester, which was triggered by the subsequent failure of the Super Committee. There are no automatic tax hikes in it, and Republicans who were sitting on the Super Committee refused to agree to any tax hikes, so as a result, draconian defense cuts will be automatically made in January 2013, unless the sequester is detriggered before then. (Disclaimer: I do not believe taxes should be raised; I believe spending should instead by cut, by an adequate amount, elsewhere, starting with the unconstitutional Department of Education, whose abolition would save more money than the sequester.)

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