The 2012 Republican platform rejects the extremism at both ends of the political spectrum. It explicitly takes the current administration to task for its failures to match its strategic vision with an appropriate investment of resources in military capabilities, its unwillingness to compromise on sequestration and its inability to distinguish between the threats that can kill you — Al Qaeda, for example — and threats that might cause your basement to leak — climate change. At the same time, the platform soundly rejects the arguments of the far Right, from the likes of Ron Paul and Grover Norquist who want to make American security the victim of their drives to destroy Big Government and its taxing power. It is a centrist document with respect to the role of the United States in the world and the need to pay the price for a military that can defend our homeland, friends and interests. In this regard it follows Governor Christie’s belief that it is possible to level with the American people and do what is right, even if it is not necessarily popular.
The platform does something else even more significant. It clearly rejects the argument, fashionable even among some senior military leaders, that the nation must choose between a strong economy and a strong defense, in other words between guns and butter. Instead, the platform asserts that it is possible to have both. One reason for this is that defense spending actually consumes a relatively small share of both GDP and the federal budget. We could eliminate all defense spending and not cut the current budget deficit in half. Our deficit stems from growth in entitlement spending, not in the discretionary accounts. Moreover, defense spending contributes to economic growth. The obvious way is through the goods and services defense spending produces. But equally important is the role that a strong U.S. military plays in securing the global commons and reducing risks to our economy at home and our investments overseas. Imagine what the insurance premium on a shipload of oil would be in the absence of the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf.
The platform also dismisses the idea that America can take a break from its global responsibilities, carve out a “peace dividend” or a set of tax breaks from the defense budget without risk. In fact, it makes it clear that the risks to national security, economic well-being and the lives of our children are growing even as we continue this silly guns versus butter argument. Unfortunately, the so-called strategic pause that occurred in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union is over. New threats are emerging and old ones are resurrecting themselves. It makes no sense to gut the military today, even if we were to use those resources to help the economy — and it is not clear that more government spending would do that. To focus only on the economy while allowing our military capability to wither is all but guaranteed to make the United States a juicy and vulnerable target for aggression.
For the past two decades, administrations of both parties have agreed on only one thing when it came to national security: a large, capable military was a necessary instrument of national policy. Even the Obama Administration accepts this point. Its new defense strategy requires the military to perform ten different missions, only one of which keeps our men and women in uniform at home. The problem is that this same administration wants to pretend that we can ask the military to do as much as it has in the past but with less. The Republican platform rightly says that if we wish to be a world power we need a world class military and if that is the military we need, we must be willing to pay for it. Bravo.
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