President Trump has earned both the highest praise and severest criticism for his decisions on defense and foreign policy matters. Whether he was revoking Obama’s terrible nuclear weapons deal with Iran or telling the world that he trusted Russian President Putin as much as he trusts our intelligence community, Trump has followed no ideology or explained how or why he reached any decision. His beliefs and his actions are transactional.
His latest — first betraying our Kurdish allies and then telling the world that we’re seizing the Syrian oil and keeping the revenue (reportedly $45 million a month) resulting from its sale — has no precedent in American history.
Despite Trump’s unsteadiness, we have to remember that under any of the Democrats who want to replace him, all of these decisions, and everything else related to the defense of our nation and our foreign policy, would become vastly, almost unimaginably, worse.
In a dozen months the choice will be between Trump and, in all likelihood, either Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Kamala Harris. It’s possible, but just barely, that one of the lower-tier candidates such as Pete Buttigieg could capture the Dems’ nomination, but that possibility is so slim that it’s not worth considering at this point.
All of the Dem candidates are virtually silent on defense and foreign policy because no one in their party gives a damn about those issues. The primary season debates are endlessly boring because they focus entirely on health care, immigration, and criticism of President Trump.
Despite the Dems’ lack of care for national security, we know enough about them to understand that if any of them is elected president our nation will be greatly endangered.
Take Joe Biden. Please. His view of the global war on terrorist networks and the nations that support them was encapsulated in his opposition to the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Biden, and Obama’s then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates, both tried to persuade Obama not to permit the raid.
Biden was vice president when Obama and Gates cut defense spending massively, at a rate of $600 billion over 10 years. Trump says that our military is rebuilt from those bad days, which isn’t at all true. A study by the Heritage Foundation released last week rated the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps on their capacity, capability, and readiness for war. The results are shocking.
In “Capacity,” the Army, Navy, and Marines Corps were rated “Weak,” that is, they were too small or wrongly configured to tackle two significant wars at the same time. In “Capability,” all four services rated “Marginal,” that is, their arms, mobility, and other factors make them barely able to cope with the two-war scenario. In “Readiness,” the Navy, Air Force, and Marines rated “Marginal,” while only the Army rated “Very strong,” meaning that the Army is ready to go to war but the other services aren’t.
These results are the product of Obama’s cuts, which included the “sequestration” of military spending. Sequestration resulted in cuts across the board rather than specifically in areas where cuts could be made without decimating the forces.
To give you an idea how bad it is, the USS Harry S. Truman’s carrier battle group deployed a couple of weeks ago without one ship. The Truman itself, the ship and with it capability the battle group is designed around, is in dry dock for an extended period of time. The Navy had wanted to retire it (before its time) to save money, but fortunately that plan was canceled.
All of that is on Joe Biden’s shoulders, as is his record of 36 years in the Senate without getting it right on a single foreign policy issue.
And there’s more. As they said in the last candidates’ debate, Biden — and all the rest — would try to sign another nuclear weapons deal with Iran, which won’t be better than the original. The Iranians keep saying they won’t negotiate with Trump, but they’d come running if a president Biden or Warren or Buttigieg asked.
Liz Warren announced her “Medicare for All” plan a few days ago. Even if you accept the magical mathematics that enabled her to claim it would cost “only” $20 trillion over 10 years, it’s impossible to believe the rest — such as the claim that because the government would be the single provider of health care, somehow brilliant government negotiators would reduce the cost of drugs by 70 percent.
Warren claims her health-care plan is paid for, in part, by cutting about $1 trillion from the defense budget over 10 years. Doing that would bust the armed services’ plans and cut them back so that they simply couldn’t defend against terrorism, cyberattacks, or much of anything else. Like the Obama cuts, Warren’s cuts would be made without any analysis of what we need — now and in the immediate future — to counter the threats America faces. She’d be a hyperactive female version of Obama.
Warren’s magical thinking isn’t limited to health care. Both she and Buttigieg have said they’d withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan regardless of whether or not a peace deal was negotiated with the Taliban. (Not that the Taliban would live up to any agreement.) The Dems in general, and Warren and Buttigieg in particular, just don’t care what would happen next, even if — as it would — Afghanistan turned into the safe haven for terrorists it was before 9/11.
What can you even say about a Vermont socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union?
You can say that Bernie Sanders truly doesn’t give a damn about America’s national security. You can say that his tired rhetoric about saving America from the “military-industrial complex” is only the beginning of the proofs of his unfitness for the presidency. Sanders wants to cut the defense budget as much or more than Warren would cut it. He claims, “We will present a thoughtful budget that meets the defense needs of this country without just simply supplying billions of dollars of unnecessary money to the military-industrial complex.” He wants to stop spending on “unmerited wars,” meaning any conflict in which terrorism is opposed or in which freedom is defended.
Sanders voted for the 2001 Authorization of Military Force in Afghanistan and has tried to apologize for doing so. Sanders, like Warren and Buttigieg, would quit Afghanistan as quickly as troops could be withdrawn.
Kamala Harris, in comparison with Biden, Sanders, and Warren, is almost a moderate. She, too, wants to get out of Afghanistan quickly but uses the fig leaf of desiring a “political solution” with the Taliban for cover.
Harris, also a fan of the Obama nuke deal with Iran, would try for a new one. She, also like the others, places no limit on the deal such as a reliable means of verifying Iran’s compliance (which the original deal also lacked).
In sum, the Democratic candidates are fungible on matters of national security and foreign policy. They will subordinate those matters to their extremely expensive domestic policies, to the UN, and to the whims of our NATO allies. They won’t push any of the NATO nations to spend more in defense of their own nations.
These analyses compel the conclusion that, regardless of how many good objections there are to Trump’s actions, each one of the Dem candidates would do far worse. Anyone who is even slightly concerned about our national security will vote for Trump, as will I.