Stories by John Guardiano

John R. Guardiano served as a Marine in Iraq and once worked on the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) modernization program. He resides in Arlington, Virginia, and blogs at www.ResCon1.com (www.twitter.com/ResCon1).

Why the Right Shouldn’t Fear Egypt’s Revolution

February 1st, 2011 at 9:40 pm 21 Comments

The uprising in Egypt is a grand opportunity, not a disaster to be contained. The opportunity is this: to finally, and more or less peaceably, bring about much-needed and long overdue democratic reforms in the one part of the world where they are most urgently needed, and that is in the Middle East.

The protesters, after all, are not Islamists, radicals or pan-Arabists; they are Egyptians, many of them young people, who want nothing more than a better life and a more responsive government.

Many conservatives, though, see things differently; and it is instructive, I think, to examine why.

First off, as I explained last summer here at FrumForum, many conservatives see Islam as an enemy and alien creed that is incompatible with democracy. Therefore, they believe, no good can come from the uprising in Egypt.

The problem with this analysis is that it doesn’t correspond with the real-world experience of Islam and democracy, which actually coexist rather well in many places. Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh and India, for instance, all have democratic governments and large Muslim populations.

Indonesia, of course, is the world’s most populous Muslim country and a democracy. Ditto Pakistan and India, the second- and third-most populous Muslim countries, respectively. Bangladesh and Malaysia, meanwhile, have populations that are 90 percent and 60 percent Muslim, respectively.

These are imperfect democracies, to be sure; but they are democracies all the same.

Second, many conservatives are philosophically predisposed to a certain pessimism about human nature. Thus, when the people take to the streets, they instinctively see a replay of the French and Russian Revolutions.

They see the unruly and illiberal mob; and so they recoil — and understandably so. Revolutions, after all, are inherently risky and not always the best way to bring about democratic change and transformation.

But if revolutions can be problematic, they also can be politically therapeutic and restorative, as in Central Europe and the Philippines in the 1980s.

Revolutions are neither necessarily bad nor good. Their import, resolution and meaning are typically very much in flux and dependent, in large measure, upon how influential outside forces respond.

Third, conservatives seem to think that what is happening in Egypt is fixed and predetermined; and that all the United States can do is either support Mubarak or watch Egypt “go Islamist.”

But these are false choices. Egypt’s revolution need not be hijacked by the Islamists. In fact, there is every reason to think that Egypt’s revolution can lead to the sort of peaceful, democratic change that Americans of every political stripe should welcome.

Unlike, Teheran in 1979, after all, the Egyptian protesters aren’t burning the American flag. They’re not directing their anger and rage at the United States nor even Israel. They are angry, and rightly so, with their own political leaders and the failures of their own governments.

Fourth, conservatives lack sufficient appreciation for America’s ability to shape events in Egypt and the Middle East.

It’s true that the United States can’t “control the outcome” in Egypt. However, we certainly can and should play a large and decisive role in shaping events there.

The Egyptian military, remember, is the country’s most important and respected institution. And it is the recipient of more than a billion dollars annually in U.S. military aid, equipment, and assistance. This gives us tremendous leverage over what happens in Egypt.

Success lies in working closely with the Egyptian military and Egyptian civil society elements — reform-minded parties and factions, professional associations and trade group, religious organizations, citizen and tribal councils, et al. — to help promote long-term democratization in Egypt.

Of course, this is something that the United States should have been doing decades ago. However, it is never too late to start. And in fact, it is critically important that we start now, before events get out of control and Egypt is lost to the Islamists.

Fifth, conservatives fear the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. This is understandable. The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamist group whose Palestinian branch is popularly known as Hamas, a well-known terrorist organization.

But as Eli Lake observes, the Muslim Brotherhood is an integral part of mainstream Egyptian civil society. Its members include doctors, lawyers and other responsible middle-class professionals.

This is not to say that the Muslim Brotherhood is a believer in Jeffersonian democracy and 19th Century classical liberalism. That, of course, is not true. The Muslim Brotherhood is a potential problem that must be managed. However, it is not an insurmountable obstacle to democratization in Egypt — far from it.

Sixth, conservatives recall Lebanon’s aborted “Cedar Revolution.” This, too, is understandable. The promise of democracy in Lebanon, it seems, has given way to a state that is now run by the terrorist group, Hezbollah.

Democratization in Lebanon is challenging; no doubt about it. But a significant contributing factor to the problems there has an abdication of American leadership, resolve and commitment. The United States simply hasn’t done much to help build a strong Lebanese state in which the army is strong and the terrorist militias disbanded.

This failure is bipartisan. But at least the Bush administration had imposed sanctions on Syria for its involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Obama administration lifted these sanctions in a foolish and misguided attempt to appease the Syrian dictator Bashir Assad.

Seven, like Obama, too many conservatives have been fixated on domestic policy to the neglect of all else. Defense and foreign policy has been, for most of them, an afterthought. Consequently, too many conservatives fail to appreciate the momentous changes now underway in the Middle East and the Islamic world, and the tremendous opportunities inherent therein.

Eight, conservatives are war-weary and tired. They’ve had enough of Iraq and Afghanistan and would love to forget defense and foreign policy altogether.

I understand this sentiment; but this is a luxury the United States simply cannot afford. Conservatives may wish to ignore history; but history will not ignore them or America.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


In Praise of Ben Wedeman’s Reporting

January 30th, 2011 at 9:32 am 5 Comments

All of us owe the journalists now on the ground in Egypt a sincere debt of gratitude for their excellent reporting in a difficult and tense situation.

We especially should thank CNN’s Senior International Correspondent, Ben Wedeman. What’s noteworthy about Wedeman is that he’s a tough-minded son-of-a-gun who doesn’t try to pretend that he’s somehow removed and detached from the action on the ground.

Of course, this is the perennial journalistic temptation and conceit. Journalists are not part of the news, they tell us; they just report the news.

In fact, this is nonsense. Journalists are an integral part of the news; and their reporting, especially today, has real-world political consequences.

Wedeman clearly knows this and, refreshingly, doesn’t try to pretend otherwise. Thus, he delivers informative and honest news reports such as this:

The looters, many of them, were able to steal weapons from the arsenals of police stations that have been burned down across Cairo.

This morning I had to walk home because there were no taxis on the street. And I walked by party offices… of the ruling party [and] police stations, all of which had been torched. I saw evidence of a lot of looting around the city.

[And so], local people are putting together neighborhood patrols, arming themselves with whatever they can.

In my neighborhood, my wife passed out baseball bats, kitchen knives and clubs to people in the neighborhood… to make sure that the area is protected: Because this is the worry: that the criminal element that didn’t have weapons now have automatic weapons and are roaming the streets of Cairo.

But as I said, it does appear that people are organizing themselves. Calls are going out from the mosques for the young men in the neighborhoods to sort of keep a close eye on what’s going on and to take decisive action if anybody tries to break into any houses, apartment buildings and stores…

I’ve seen this in many places: in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime [and], just a few weeks ago, in Tunisia. Everybody knows their neighbors.

So anybody who is unknown to that neighborhood is not welcomed. They’re basically chased away [and] threatened with clubs and knives and whatnot:

Because nobody is in the mood to have any strangers enter the neighborhood, because they may well have very evil intentions.

I loved hearing this! For once, we have a journalist who acknowledges that he and his wife are a part of the community in which they live and report. And what’s more, he says, he and his wife share a common bond with their neighbors.

Would that all journalists were as honest, candid and forthright as Wedeman. All of us, then, would be better served.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


How the GOP Should Respond to Egypt

January 28th, 2011 at 5:17 pm 33 Comments

The crisis in Egypt gives the Republican Party a new opportunity to reiterate its commitment to President George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda,” which championed liberal democracy as the crucial and necessary alternative to repression and radicalism.

There’s only one problem: a strong libertarian undertow, which is at the heart of the Tea Party movement, doesn’t really believe in the Freedom Agenda.

Libertarian leaders such as Grover Norquist, in fact, want America to come home and to tend to its own business. (Norquist has called for a “conversation” amongst conservatives about the costs and benefits of American involvement in Afghanistan.)

Rand Paul, likewise, wants to end all foreign aid, including the billions of dollars that we give annually to Israel and Egypt. Ditto the Republican Study Committee, which, according to Dave Weigel, has called for zeroing out the entire USAID budget.

Now, I don’t like foreign aid any more than the next conservative: Most foreign aid probably is economically wasteful and counterproductive. But the point of foreign aid is not economics; it is geopolitics: It is intended to shape a recipient country’s behavior and, quite literally, buy American influence. And it does just that.

The last thing we should do then is to eliminate all foreign aid out of a myopic and shortsighted desire to save money and reduce the deficit. Such an idea is penny wise and pound foolish; and it will undermine and harm vital U.S. national security interests.

At least now, in large part because of our aid to that country, we can shape and influence Egyptian public policy and behavior. Just imagine if we lacked this carrot how much less influence we would have there.

But libertarians like Norquist and Paul don’t see this. They don’t see the bigger strategic picture because they’re neo-isolationists who, like their far-left counterparts, want America to come home.

They want the American military to withdraw from the world. They don’t realize that America’s domestic prosperity is inextricably linked to our international military commitments and forward-leaning presence.

More authentic conservatives know better. George W. Bush certainly knew better, even if he was an imperfect president who fell short in other key respects (such as reining in domestic discretionary spending).

Today’s new Republican congressmen and senators can learn from our 43rd president, who, despite his mistakes, nonetheless stood squarely and forthrightly on the side of freedom and opportunity worldwide.

Indeed, the idea that liberal democracy is a Western value only is “a condescending form of moral relativism,” Bush told a conference of Middle Eastern elites in El Sheikh, Egypt, in May 2008. “The truth is that freedom is a universal right — the Almighty’s gift to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth.”

This doesn’t mean that the United States should impose liberal democracy at the point of a gun everywhere around the globe. That, obviously, would be unjust, reckless and imprudent.

However, it does mean that we should clearly, forthrightly and unequivocally support liberal democracy worldwide — and that no one should ever doubt where we stand.

The United States stands firmly and proudly on the side of liberty. And we will use all means of our national power — including foreign aid and military assistance — to ensure the survival and success of liberty worldwide.

Of course, this doesn’t accord with the new libertarian ethos of the modern Republican Party and Tea Party movements. It is, instead, a profoundly conservative idea championed by such “old-school” Republicans as Ronald Reagan.

But it is an idea that corresponds with our longstanding national political tradition and historic foreign policy. And is that idea which is being sorely tested right now on the streets of Egypt — a country whose destiny is now inextricably linked to our own.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


Why Obama Should be Thanking Bush

January 26th, 2011 at 6:24 pm 41 Comments

President Obama barely talked about defense and foreign policy last night, except to unfairly disparage his predecessor, George W. Bush.

“American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored,” declared Obama.

In fact, when it comes to defense and foreign policy, Obama is living off of his Bush inheritance. He thus owes his predecessor a tremendous debt. For Bush has given Obama the public policies that have led to any success for which Obama now claims credit.

Where, after all, has American leadership been “renewed” and “restored”?

  • Certainly not in the Middle East and Lebanon, where Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, has solidified its control: by toppling a western-oriented government there and imposing a new pro-Iranian prime minister.
  • Certainly not in Egypt and Tunisia, where people are protesting against tyranny and oppression, but with little or no apparent support from the Obama administration.
  • Certainly not in Russia, which has succeeded in forcing upon the United States a new nuclear arms control agreement which may well limit and constrain our ability to build and deploy a missile defense.
  • Certainly not in Iran and North Korea, which, despite Obama’s SOTU bravado, continue to develop nuclear weapons, while threatening and causing regional havoc and instability.
  • And certainly not in Mexico and Venezuela, where the drug cartels and dictator (Hugo Chavez), respectively, continue to undermine liberty, opportunity and the rule of law.

In Iraq, it is true, progress has been dramatic; and, for all practical intents and purposes, the war there has been won.

But this is not because of any new and brilliant policy pushed by Obama. To the contrary: it is because Obama adopted and continued the surge policy that Bush effected over the opposition of then-Senator Obama!

In any case, Iraq could yet fall apart if we leave and abandon the country to the tender mercies of Iran. Which is why it is notable that, as Eli Lake has keenly observed, Obama said nothing about leaving Iraq in 2011. Instead, he talked about “finish[ing] the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq.”

But our job is not to “bring our troops” home; our job is to win! Yet two years into his presidency, Obama still finds it impossible to utter that word.

To his great credit, Obama has committed tens of thousands of more troops to Afghanistan. Yet he persists in his dangerous and detrimental call for a timeline for withdrawal. And he repeated this call in his speech last night:

This July we will begin to bring our troops home.

This was followed by the sight of American congressmen and senators rising to their feet to applaud the president.

What does this tell our enemies? What does it tell our friends and allies?

It tells them what Obama said at West Point in Dec. 2009, which is: I really don’t want the United States to be in Afghanistan; I have much more important things to do; and as soon as I can, I’m hightailing it out of here.

Now, I know the President has since walked back his commitment to leaving Afghanistan by July of this year. But words have consequences. And in Afghanistan, the consequences of Obama’s timeline for withdrawal — which he reiterated last night — have been disastrous.

Indeed, Obama’s words help to explain Hamid Karzai’s erratic and unpredictable behavior; and they help to explain why our troops have had surprising difficulty winning the allegiance of the Afghan people.

Simply put, both Karzai and the Afghan people doubt America’s staying power and commitment to them, and for good reason given Obama’s own policies and pronouncements. And seeing our Congress leap to its feet to vigorously applaud the removal of American troops from Afghanistan does absolutely nothing but reinforce this perception of American weakness and irresolution.

Finally, the president uttered a throwaway line about cutting from the defense budget tens of billions of dollars that the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, “and his generals believe our military can do without.”

This is misleading. The generals are obligated, essentially, to toe Gates’ line. They “support” the cuts to the extent that they do mostly because they feel they have to.

In any case, if Obama were serious about military “reform,” then he would have devoted more than one throwaway line to the topic. He would have embraced real reform of our military personnel, pay and benefits structures.

Pay and benefits, after all, are the fastest-growing and most statist parts of the defense budget; and they threaten soon to subsume all Pentagon spending.

In truth, though, Obama was more interested in scoring unearned political points than he was in seriously addressing public policy problems. Thus his cheap shots at George W. Bush.

But far from disparaging his predecessor, Obama instead should be thanking Bush for providing him with the public-policies that he (Obama) has mostly adopted, and which are allowing him to claim credit on the world stage.

There’s only one problem: it won’t last. The world is a rapidly evolving tinderbox that is waiting to explode. And so, at some point, Obama is going to have to develop a set of defense and foreign policies that will deter and avert conflict — and which, should conflict occur, will allow the United States to successfully prosecute that conflict. And the sooner he does this, the safer we all will be.

Unfortunately, there’s no indication from his speech last night that Obama has given any thought to this problem.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


Cable News Gets SOTU-Mania

January 25th, 2011 at 7:20 pm 10 Comments

If the rest of the world was not already laughing at us, they surely are now, considering the silliness and inanity of our politics, which is now broadcast worldwide thanks to cable television and the internet.

Consider, for instance, this from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:

Here’s a little State of the Union trivia for you. Over the past decade, presidents have either worn a red or blue tie during their annual address to the nation. President Obama actually wore red and white striped ties for the past two years. Does that mean he’ll go with blue tonight, maybe even purple?

Stay tuned. We’ll find out which tie he will wear.

We’re watching other important stories [emphasis added], including Rahm Emanuel’s on-again, off-again campaign to become Chicago’s next mayor…

No, I’m not making this up!

CNN also has a clock in the lower left-hand corner of its screen: to count down the time remaining until kickoff – er, I mean, the time when the president delivers his address! “STARTS IN: 3hrs, 40 min, 01 sec.”

Then there’s this, off to the right of the countdown clock:

“DATE NIGHT” UNDER THE DOME

A true show of bipartisanship or a stunt?

This, of course, is a reference to the fact that, in an ostentatious display of “bipartisanship,” members of Congress are sitting next to other members who are not of their own political party.

Fortunately for us, Blitzer had a breaking news update about this, too.

As we countdown to the president’s State of the Union Address, we have an update on what’s been dubbed ‘Date Night in Congress.’

The House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, had to pick a new bipartisan buddy after the Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, turned him down. We’re told he’ll sit with Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott [from Virginia].

Even supporters of this idea to mix it up — mix up that usual party-line seating — admit it’s a little bit like high school. But they argue it does send a very good message.

Really? What kind of message, I wonder, does it send to the rest of the world that we Americans obsess about such silly stuff?

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


Cut Entitlements, Not Defense, for Fiscal Health

January 21st, 2011 at 7:00 am 39 Comments

Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution is arguing for additional defense budget cuts to help reduce the deficit. “After all,” he writes in an op-ed published in USA Today, “a failure to avert the oncoming fiscal calamity could cripple the U.S. economically over time.”

But as Robert Kagan rightly observes:

The scary projections of future deficits are ‘not caused by rising defense spending.’ And even if one assumes that defense spending continues to increase with the rate of inflation, this s ‘not what’s driving the future spending. The engine of our growing debt is entitlements.

Just so. In fact, as I observed here at FrumForum yesterday, defense spending as a share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and total federal budget has declined dramatically since the 1950s and ‘60s. Meanwhile, spending on entitlements — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — has skyrocketed.

Indeed, as Heritage Foundation defense analyst Mackenzie Eaglen points out, entitlements now account for nearly two-thirds of all federal spending and a record 18 percent of the GDP.

Entitlement spending, in fact “eclipsed defense spending in 1976 and has been growing ever since,” Eaglen writes.

“If future taxes are held at the historical average,” she explains, “these three entitlements — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — will consume all tax revenues by 2052, [thus] leaving no money for the government’s primary constitutional obligation: providing for the common defense.

In the past decade alone (2001 to 2009), Eaglen notes, “defense spending increases are responsible for less than 20 percent of all new spending. And this figure does not even include the mammoth $787-billion “stimulus bill,” which appropriated almost no money for defense.

Of course, O’Hanlon ignores all of this evidence, because it shows that the real problem is entitlement spending, not the defense budget; and O’Hanlon is looking for excuses to cut defense. Facts, after all, are stubborn and inconvenient things.

In any case, let there be no doubt about what O’Hanlon is proposing. He wants to cut the size of the Army and Marine Corps to what they were during the 1990s. He thus assumes that we won’t be fighting another land war anytime soon; and that the need for a sustained commitment of U.S. ground troops overseas will recede.

These are foolish assumptions. If the past decade has taught us anything at all, it is that our Army and Marine Corps are too small; and that no strategic weapon can substitute for the tactical, stabilizing presence of an American solider or Marine.

In fact, we need a significantly larger military and a bigger defense budget. And if O’Hanlon genuinely wants to “address the economic challenge posed to the long-term foundations of U.S. national power,” then I’d recommend he start pushing for fiscal and monetary policies that promote economic growth while reining in entitlement spending.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


Why Our Troops Can’t Take More Cuts

January 18th, 2011 at 12:21 am 33 Comments

The Sunday Washington Post has a piece purporting to debunk the “five myths about defense spending.” The piece complains that we spend too much; that defense spending jeopardizes our “economic security”; and that we need to cut defense spending.

None of this is true. As a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), we’re spending half or even one-third what we spent under Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower. As former Missouri Senator Jim Talent has observed:

The military is undeniably in a modernization crisis. The Navy has fewer ships than at any time since 1916; the Air Force hasn’t been this small since Pearl Harbor; and the average age of the Air Force inventory is 25 years old.

The Army, [moreover], needs to recapitalize equipment lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will need to replace most of its tracked vehicles over the next decade.

In truth, our crisis extends far beyond the need for equipment recapitalization and replacement; it includes key capability gaps which also must be addressed.

For example, our Soldiers and Marines lack the same type of instantaneous, real-time communication capabilities that their civilian counterparts now have, and that’s a major problem. In addition, we have too few Soldiers and Marines to address and deter many of the operational contingencies that we are likely to face in the next quarter-century and beyond.

But these are minor quibbles, really, when compared to the groundless and fundamentally flawed analysis offered up by Gordon Adams and Mathew Leatherman in Sunday’s Washington Post.

For example, they purport to show that “excessive defense spending can make us less secure, not more” secure. But their justification for this assertion is completely specious.

Adams and Leatherman assert that our military modernization efforts spur the Chinese to do the same, “thus inflating the defense budget without making anyone safer.”

In truth, China is a rising power determined to have a military capability commensurate with its growing economic status. And nothing the United States does or does not do will stop that. This means we must ensure always that we have, as President Kennedy wisely put it, a military that is “second to none.”

Adams and Leatherman also laud cuts to the defense budget made by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton, who, they note approvingly,

“reduced active-duty forces by 700,000, Pentagon civilians by 300,000, defense procurement dollars by 53 percent, and overall national defense spending by 38 percent. “ Yet they argue, “we were still able to carry out one of the Pentagon’s top planning scenarios: occupying Iraq in 2003.”

Where to begin?!

First off, the Bush (41)-Clinton cuts to the Pentagon workforce gutted the Pentagon acquisition corps. This, in turn, led to many of the weapon systems cost overruns and contracting scandals that have gotten so much media coverage in recent years. Now, belatedly, the Pentagon is trying to beef up its acquisition corps by hiring more and better skilled workers.

And while it is true that we had enough troops to topple Saddam Huseein in 2003, it is also true — obviously and patently true — that we did not have enough troops for a prolonged occupation of Iraq.

That, in fact, is why we have had Soldiers and Marines doing four or five deployments, sometimes for as long as 15 months, with too little rest between combat tours. And this, in turn, may be a significant contributing factor to the spike in suicides within the Army and Marine Corps.

Moreover, the 1990’s “procurement holiday,” which Adams and Leatherman cheer, was an unmitigated disaster for the U.S. military, and especially the Army. It’s meant that our Soldiers and Marines have been forced into combat in 1970s-era tanks and vehicles which can’t fully accommodate modern-day communications technology.

It’s meant that while our air and naval forces have achieved absolute air and sea dominance, our ground forces are still strikingly vulnerable to crude attacks by terrorists and insurgents wielding primitive Improvised Explosive Devices (IED)s.

And it’s meant that when we surged forces in Iraq, we necessarily let Afghanistan boil over because we simply didn’t have enough troops to wage a counterinsurgency in both countries. Yet Adams and Leatherman insist, with supposedly a straight face, that

Gates’s cuts aren’t enough. They’re a small step in the right direction, but the proposed cuts would still leave the level of defense spending far above what we need…The national defense budget proposals could be lower by an aggregate of roughly $1 trillion through 2020…

Excuse me, but this is lunacy and simply cannot be taken seriously. Far from cutting the defense budget, the United States instead needs to spend significantly more on defense, and especially our ground forces.

What, after all, if the United States has to occupy an imploding North Korea to help preserve peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, while deterring potential Chinese military aggression? What if had to wage a counterinsurgency in Yemen or Somalia?

To be sure, these are not immediate or likely scenarios. But they aren’t farfetched ideas either. They are, instead, distinct possibilities for which we had better be prepared.

In the meantime, Afghanistan is far from won; and the peace in Iraq remains weak and fragile. And there is the looming nuclear threat from Iran, which continues to wage proxy wars against us and our allies by supporting terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamic Jihad.

The idea that the United States should cut defense spending in the face of these threats is wrongheaded and dangerous.

It is especially wrongheaded and dangerous in the wake of the Obama-Gates defense cuts, which, by the administration’s own calculations, have reduced weapon systems’ procurement by an estimated $330 billion over a 10- to 30-year period.

The Obama administration also has cut another $100 billion in so-called administrative overhead from the defense budget and now is proposing an additional $78-billion Pentagon cut.

And so, by the time the Obama administration is done, defense spending is projected to decline to some three percent of the GDP — an historic low at a time of war. Yet, according to Adams and Leatherman, Obama is responsible for “the most expensive defense budget in more than 60 years.”

But this is true only if you look at the defense budget in absolute dollar terms; it is absolutely not true if you look at defense spending either as a share of the overall federal budget or as a share of the GDP.

In truth, only about 19 percent of the federal budget goes to defense versus as much as 70 percent of the federal budget when Eisenhower was president.

Adams and Leatherman are right to note that, historically, both Democrats and Republicans have conspired to cut defense. But the idea that the Left isn’t more eager to cut defense is laughable. Anyone and everyone who follows American politics knows better.

Adams and Leatherman also correctly note that military pay and benefits are a problem. These have been increasing exponentially and must be reined in before they consume the entire defense budget.

But the problem isn’t so much that pay and benefits are too high; it is that pay and benefits are administered through a quasi-socialized, state-run system which has too few incentives to economize and be efficient.

Indeed, just as the entire state-run healthcare system must be reformed and restructured along market-oriented lines, so, too, must the military pay and benefits system be similarly restructured.

This means much more, though, than simply increasing co-payments for military personnel: It means actually empowering military personnel with responsibility and authority for their own retirement and their own healthcare.

In short, there are reforms that can and should be made to the defense budget. But these reforms necessarily will require that we spend more, not less, on defense.

Reforming defense also will require that we ignore ideologically-driven analysts like Adams and Leatherman, who are intent on inventing sophistic rationales for gutting the defense budget.

Instead, we must accept the fact that the United States is a global political, economic and cultural power and, as such, has certain inescapable international responsibilities.

The first such responsibility is enumerated in the Constitution of the United States; and it is to provide for our common defense. And meeting this responsibility requires a bigger, and not smaller, defense budget.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


Are Indian Americans Ready to Go GOP?

January 18th, 2011 at 12:01 am 31 Comments

The Cross Culturalist blog, which “seeks to dispel the notion that all conservatives must be uncultured boors,” has linked to and recommended my Nikki Haley post.

Like the FrumForum, the Cross Culturalist is “dedicated to the modernization and renewal of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.”

Indeed, writes the Cross Culturalist, “since Americans are becoming more educated and more multicultural, the conservative movement ought to build its future on those demographics. It turns out,” he says, “that Indian Americans represent both of these categories.” That is, Indian Americans are better educated and more multicultural than most Americans.

More than two-thirds of Indian Americans over the age of 25, for instance, are college graduates; and more than a third have graduate degrees.

Indian Americans also have the highest median household income ($83,820) of any ethnic group in the United States and the lowest poverty rate (less than six percent). And less than one percent of Indian Americans reportedly receive public assistance.

Their religious diversity, moreover, is extraordinary, and includes at least nine major faith traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and the Bahá’í Faith

These and other compelling facts about Indian Americans have been published by Dino Teppara, Chairman of the Indian-American Conservative Council (IACC). IACC’s site is worth checking out, as is the Cross Culturalist.


John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


Haley Takes Charge

January 17th, 2011 at 2:41 pm 28 Comments

The massacre in Tucson dominated last week’s news. But something else newsworthy also happened last week: Nikki Haley took the reins as Governor of South Carolina.

Haley’s unique background and sharp political skills are attractive and compelling. Haley’s election as governor also underscores the rise of a new American minority group: Indian-Americans, who have become an increasingly important part of the Republican Party and the conservative political coalition.

An Indian-American, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, is  frequently mentioned as a Republican presidential contender in 2016.  And there are other politically active and influential Indian-Americans, some of whom attended Haley’s inauguration, reports the Times of India newspaper. Among them: Virginia Republican Puneet Ahluwalia; Sampat Shivangi from Mississippi; Philadelphia cardiologist Bindu Kansupada; and the Chairman of the New Jersey Republican Indian Committee, Bapinidu Kuchipudu.

“It is a great moment not only for South Carolina, but also for [all of] India,” said Kansupada. “This is a monumental achievement for our diaspora.”

“I stand before you today, the proud daughter of Indian immigrants,” Haley declared last Wednesday in her inaugural address. “Growing up in rural, small town South Carolina, my family experienced this state and this country at its best…

We counted our blessings. And my parents reminded me and my brothers and sister every day how blessed we were to live in this country.  We saw the constant example of neighbors helping neighbors.

For us, happiness existed in not knowing what we didn’t have, and in knowing that what we did have was the opportunity to better our lives through hard work and strong values.

You see, my mother was offered one of the first female judgeships in her native country, but was unable to serve on the bench because of the challenges of being a woman in India.

Now she sits here today watching her daughter become Governor of South Carolina, the state she proudly calls her home. When you grow up with a mom like that, the word “can’t” is not in your vocabulary.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.


Obama Comforts a Nation

January 13th, 2011 at 7:13 am 14 Comments

FrumForum readers know I have been quite critical of President Obama’s speeches and oratory. He’s been vastly overrated as an orator, I’ve argued, and too often has missed the historical moment.

But like most commentators, I’m pleased to report that the president this evening delivered a very fine speech, his best since 2004 when he told the Democratic National Convention:

there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

Obama tonight, likewise, rose above petty, partisan politics to summon the better angels of our nature “so that we can bequeath the American dream to future generations.”

He paid tribute to the fallen, those who were killed in a senseless act of horrific violence: Judge John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, Gabe Zimmerman and nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green.

And he gave thanks for those who survived: 13 Americans, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

“Our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak,” Obama said. And “I can tell you this:

She knows we’re here; and she knows we love her; and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.

Obama also paid tribute to the heroes among us, those who acted to save lives in the aftermath of the violence:

[young] Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby’s office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive…

petite 61-year-old Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives; and…

the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt.

These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength.

Heroism is all around us in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned — as it was on Saturday morning.

The President then did some summoning of his own: “How can we honor the fallen?” he asked. “How can we be true to their memory?”

Not by “pointing fingers or assigning blame,” but only by recognizing that our fates as Americans are inextricably linked. “Our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

“What we can’t do,” he said, “is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues [-- i.e., what might have precipitated or prevented the massacre in Tucson] — let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.”

Because “scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.”

Obama is exactly right about this; and his point here is deeply and profoundly conservative. “Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.”

This is a clear and explicit rebuke to those, on both the Left and the Right, who have been trying to use the Tucson massacre as a vehicle to score political points. Don’t do that, Obama said in effect. ‘That’s wrong and unhelpful. I’m not going to go there.’

And he didn’t.

Instead, the President urged us “to look forward: to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us.

We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order.

We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame — but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

Amen. These are simple but beautiful and poetic lines, beautifully delivered. And so, when I heard Obama say this, I thought: “Surely, this is the high point of his speech. He can’t be any more eloquent than this.”

I was wrong. The best was yet to come: Because Obama concluded his speech with an impassioned commitment to young nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green and the future of America.

Imagine,” he said:

Here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.

She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.

She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us — we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations [emphasis added].

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who got a tear in his eye when he heard the President say this.

We adults are always telling our children, our nieces and nephews, that we expect them to live up to our expectations. Yet too many of us in the media and political worlds, on both the Left and the Right, have been failing our children.

Our children, after all, see America as a great and wonderful place, full of immense hope and opportunity. Yet we in the media and political worlds have too often reduced our democracy to a vicious game of partisan name-calling and ideological score-settling.

Obama tonight refused to play that game. He rejected the anger and the vitriol, and the politics of hate and division. Instead, he embraced a politics of hope and promise.

“If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping them,” Obama said. “And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves, as Americans, to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.”

Amen.

In short, Obama tonight took command. He showed himself to be above petty, partisan politics. He showed that he understood the historical moment.  He showed himself to be a leader worthy of this great nation and worthy of this difficult time.

Let us hope that the same inner strength and wisdom that the President summoned forth tonight can be captured and applied again to the immense difficulties and challenges that yet lie ahead.

I know that I’m certainly rooting for him. And so, too, I believe, are most Americans.


John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.