Reconciling great power responsibilities with economic stagnation.
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WHAT, THEN, should be a conservative defense agenda? Unlike the liberals, we accept the duty of defense and insist that it be provided for even as we demand reductions in the size and cost of government in order to revive the economy. We understand that though the cost of defense is an important consideration, a budget is not a strategy.
There are principles on which we must stand. First, that America supports freedom everywhere but will fight for it only when our vital national security interests are at risk. Second, that our diplomatic, military, and intelligence actions must all proceed consistent with our strategy toward the same goals. Third, that our combined national strategy must be implemented in a way that ensures we can deter or defeat any significant threats to our vital interests.
The “vital” qualifier means that we must make judgments to separate the most important interests from those we can afford to ignore and those for which our allies must take responsibility. Throughout the Cold War, our NATO allies were protected by American forces in Europe and our nuclear “umbrella.” Since the Soviet Union fell, they have refused to invest in their own defense.
Israel, Japan, and Taiwan are exceptions, but what of the others?
A March 2011 NATO communiqué shows the staggeringly low levels at which our allies are investing. From 1990 to 1999, the U.S. spent an average of 3. 8 percent of its GDP on defense. During the same period, the figure for Britain was 3.2 percent, for Germany 1.8 percent, for France 3.1 percent, for Norway 2. 5 percent, and for Italy 1.9 percent. In 2010, when NATO was in the midst of its Afghanistan mission, the rate of defense spending in member countries shrank.
NATO is not sustainable as an alliance if its members aren’t willing to contribute. A U.S. military presence in Europe must be maintained at some level, because bases there allow us to operate more quickly in areas far from our home turf. And though our nuclear umbrella should remain, it is time to insist that our allies choose between investing in our mutual defense and the cancellation of our guarantees of their security.
GEN. MYERS STATED the principle from which we should proceed when he told me budgeting should be “strategy-based.” “What is our national strategy?” he asked. “What is our U.S. military strategy? What are our vital national interests, what role does the military play in ensuring that our vital national interests are supported and achieved?”
Freedom of the seas has been a vital interest for centuries; to that we must add freedom of the skies and of space, and the ability to function internationally in the cyberworld. To that, we must add the interest we have in the mutual defense of those allies that are willing to pay their share of the cost, as well as ad hoc alliances that can help deal with specific threats.
By that definition, we must choose a policy that ensures America does resume the role of a superpower. We should continue to defend our vital interests and refuse to use military power unless those vital interests are clearly at risk. We must abjure nation-building: Creating democracy should not be our role in the world.
The basis for our agenda has to be an analysis of the threats we face, the sources of those threats, and the assets necessary to answer them. From those analyses, a strategy can be developed that would, in turn, be the basis for budgets and plans. We have to insist on that process for developing our defense and intelligence budgets, for without it, planning is mere guesswork.
Because we can base our national strategy only on what we know about our adversaries’ intentions and capabilities, it is essential that we repair the inadequacies of our intelligence community. Without current, accurate, and complete intelligence, policy making is mere guesswork.
Next we must define the threats to our vital interests and our adversaries’ capabilities to implement those threats. Realities, again, intrude. For example, the threat of radical Islam cannot be answered by kinetic means alone. The Islamists are conducting an ideological war against us, which we are losing principally because we have failed to fight back.
America’s ideological arsenal contains many of our most effective—and least expensive—weapons. What we say, and the principles for which we stand, are enormously effective against ideologies that offer only poverty, enslavement, and suicide. However, ideological warfare must be undertaken by leaders who believe in those principles that defined America until Obama’s doctrine took root. It must be a conflict fought personally by the president, his cabinet, our diplomats, and our intelligence community.
We know there are things to cut, particularly in the inanities forced on the Pentagon by Obama’s liberal agenda. For example, the Navy’s huge investment in “alternative fuels” led to the purchase of 200,000 gallons of algae-based fuel from the Solazyme company for $8.4 million, or $425 a gallon. A fundamental part of a conservative defense agenda should be to expunge all such nonsense.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?