But while we focused on the home-front, the world kept spinning. And now, while we try to fix the mess that the Democrats created by trying to implement their 80-year plan to socialize much of the American economy, those who we just elected to go to Washington also must address the precarious world we face.
In a recent post, I discussed the economic, limited-government, and social elements of American Conservatism, but I intentionally did not address the fourth leg of the stool-our historic commitment to a strong and consistent foreign policy, and to a strong and effective military to support that policy. Since at least the election of Dwight Eisenhower, the American public has trusted the GOP over the Democrats to manage this nation’s foreign and military affairs. This trust is evidenced not only in the polls, but it has been quietly conceded even by the Democrats: no Democrat has served as Secretary of Defense since Bill Clinton’s first term. It is time for the GOP to reassert its responsibility in this area.
Why? First, because we Americans made a mistake in 2008 by electing a man with no life experience to prepare him to lead this nation, diplomatically or militarily; and second, because the world we face today is more dangerous than it was on September 12, 2001. We simply don’t have the luxury to ignore the problems that are spinning out of control around the world while we fix our domestic problems, and we must realize that some of domestic problems are related to and affected by these international problems.
Some cynics will say that the problems we face around the world were created by actions taken by the Bush administration after September 11th-and they’d be partially correct. But the cynic’s response-to reduce American diplomatic, economic, and military dominance and engagement around the world-is exactly the wrong answer. Strong, effective American leadership is needed immediately to marshal the necessary international effort and resources to avoid real, long-term catastrophes over the next few years.
Let’s look at the context of the real world we live in today:
- In 1953, a cease-fire was negotiated, which ended the military hostilities between North Korea and Communist China on one side, and South Korea and the armed forces of the United Nations led by the United States on the other side, though the Korean War was never brought to an end;
- In 1961, the United States supported an attempt to overthrow Castro’s government in Cuba, and we have been in a state of hostility with Cuba ever since;
- In 1979, the Shah of Iran was deposed by an Islamic theocracy, which then invaded our embassy in an act of war, and, though our diplomats and employees eventually were released, we have been in a state of hostility with Iran ever since;
- In 1991, the Persian Gulf War, in which the United States led an international coalition against Iraq under a United Nations’ resolution, was stopped under a another cease-fire arrangement, but the war against Iraq was never brought to an end;
- In late 1991, the United States assumed direct responsibility for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by sponsoring the Madrid Conference;
- In 1998, a new network of non-state terrorists who followed a perverted interpretation of Islam declared war on the United States and our Western allies, and we, and our allies, have been at war with this network, and their allies, including the Taliban of Afghanistan, since September 11, 2001;
- In 1999, Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela, then attempted to destabilize the region and bring Cuban-style government to all of Latin America as the re-incarnation of Simon Bolivar, and has forged alliances with Cuba, Iran, China and Russia;
- In 2002, President Bush acknowledged that Iraq, Iran and North Korea formed an Axis of Evil that was supporting terrorism around the world;
- In 2003, in the context of the War against Terror and Iraq’s continued refusal to comply with the terms of the cease-fire from 1991, we chose to go to war against Iraq, and we still have troops in Iraq supporting the new government;
- Currently, Mexico is engaged in a virtual civil war with criminal drug cartels, which have brought military operations and criminal behavior to our border region.
As a result of this history, we have soldiers continuing to fight terror networks around the world, including in Afghanistan; battle-ready troops still stationed in Iraq; North Korea attacking South Korea’s navy, shooting missiles into South Korea, and continuing to develop nuclear technology and weapons for its own use and for sale to our enemies; Iran testing long-range missiles, developing the capability to build nuclear weapons, disrupting our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and agitating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Venezuela breaking all of the traditions built around the Monroe Doctrine and building a diplomatic and military coalition in our hemisphere against the United States with the help of the Iranians, the Chinese and the Russians; and criminals creating destabilizing violence along our border with Mexico-all while we still maintain security forces in Europe, Japan, and South Korea, and a naval presence in every ocean.
So what is Obama’s response? He wants to eliminate our nuclear arsenal, and, as a first-step, he wants the Senate to ratify another START treaty! In pursuit of this ridiculously naïve goal, he put his, and our nation’s, prestige on the line by recently committing to Russia and our allies that he would get the treaty ratified this year. This is the type of unserious-even dangerous-policy pursuit that you get when you elect an inexperienced, yet intellectually conceited, person to the Presidency.
With a wave of his hand, Obama and his supporters dismiss real issues raised by Senator Kyl and others concerning the effects of this treaty on the necessary modernization of our remaining arsenal, and the related delays in the funding for planned new facilities in New Mexico and Tennessee, which are needed soon. This is the same type of arrogance that led President Wilson to try to force the League of Nations treaty on the Senate without considering amendments that Henry Cabot Lodge and others wanted related to the constitutionality of the “war-trigger” provision in that treaty. That needless confrontation led to the defeat of that treaty, and to a two-decade cycle of disarmament treaties and isolationist policies that helped create the conditions for World War II.
If Obama does not properly address the legitimate concerns raised by Kyl and others, this treaty may well be defeated-and in this environment, that would needlessly agitate the Russians, who hold some diplomatic leverage with North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, as well as over the continued peace in Eastern Europe.
Although Obama will have to swallow a little of his over-abundant pride, this immediate problem over the START treaty is of his own making and he can easily fix it. The Russians and our European allies want certainty that the treaty will be addressed and ratified-that’s all. Obama and the new Senate leaders, including Kyl, can provide that certainty by publicly committing before Christmas to a legislative time-line early next year that provides adequate opportunity for debate, amendment and a vote. The make-up of the new Senate will not have changed so radically, that, with proper deliberation, the treaty (with amendments) can’t be ratified. If Obama is truly serious about working with the new GOP members of Congress, this approach should be a “no-brainer”.
In the meantime, the priorities of this administration need a wake-up call. The world is sitting on a powder keg. We are about one major incident – a diplomatic blunder, a macro-economic mistake that impairs world financial markets, or a misguided attack-away from a potential catastrophic conflict. At the same time, peace along our own border is challenged daily by Mexican criminals who now control the governmental apparatus in many towns and cities in Mexico. Continued uncertainty-especially uncertainty regarding the United States, because we are still the “indispensable nation” in world affairs-creates the greatest risk that one major incident will ignite the keg. Therefore, Obama needs to address the present uncertainty in world affairs:
- Reduce the debt that is fueling financial turmoil, by reducing the size of the national government and spending and re-allocating responsibilities and funding sources to state and local governments, and reducing (as soon as practical) the amount of debt sold to foreign nations or sovereign funds;
- (After committing to the structural changes) find the funds necessary to rebuild our internal infrastructure, rebuild our military capability after fighting two wars for most of a decade, re-invest in our space operations and exploration, and continue to fight and contain the terror network that declared war on us in 1998;
- Provide the resources along our border with Mexico necessary to divert criminal activity away from American soil, and to provide aid to the Mexican government to defeat the cartels-militarily, if necessary;
- Provide clear goals (not a time-line, but measurable goals) for the end of active military operations Iraq and Afghanistan, and either complete transitions to a long-term oversight presence in the region similar to our presence in Europe and Japan since the end of World War II, or eventually remove our military presence completely from those countries;
- Reassert the applicability of the Monroe Doctrine in the Western Hemisphere, and provide our allies in this hemisphere with the resources to defend themselves politically and militarily against Chavez and his allies;
- Reassert our intention to enforce the cease-fire on the Korean Peninsula (again, militarily, if necessary), while finally engaging the Chinese in negotiations to force the drafting and ratification of a final peace treaty to end the war;
- Give the Iranians and the North Koreans a deadline to end the development of their nuclear programs, or they will be brought to an end unilaterally;
- Provide the Palestinians with carrots and sticks as incentives to end their conflict against Israel, and to accept an internationally-recognized state without the right of return to Israel; and
- Continue engagement with the Russians and the Chinese to assure a stable Europe, so that, over time, we can withdraw our active military presence from that continent; and to assure a stable free-trade regime.
Now, do I think Obama will address these issues in this way? Of course not. Do I think the United States can address any of the remaining issues without addressing the first one I listed? No. So, what are we to do?
As many of you know, I’ve been advocating a return of government responsibility and power from Washington to the individual, local governments and states. I’ve advocated this approach because it is consistent with what our Founder’s intended, and it is needed to address our long-term domestic problems. But it also is needed now to address these world problems.
The United States can not lead in the development of a safe and free world if it must devote its scarce tax dollars to paying for responsibilities that should be borne by you and me, by our local governments, and by the private sector-there just isn’t enough money to pay for a grand scheme to underwrite our retirement and healthcare or for overlapping programs at every level of government, and to keep the world safe and free-and the Chinese and Middle Eastern sovereign funds probably won’t continue to underwrite our debt if we re-assert our global responsibilities. The first responsibility of government is to provide for the common defense. In the post-World War II world our parents left to us, only the United States has the capability and the moral will to defend freedom, and the safety of literally billions of people depends on that protection. There is no other viable alternative to a strong American defense for the foreseeable future.
It is time that we abandon all the poppy-induced dreams of “give peace a chance” that my generation clung to, and realize that we live in the real world, with real dangers and threats, and it is time we accept the responsibilities that our Founder’s bequeathed to us, so that we can meet the responsibilities our parents left to us.
Assuming Obama won’t meet this challenge, we know what we must do in 2012.