Why the GOP Turned its Back on Defense

August 2nd, 2011 at 1:17 pm | 18 Comments |

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One important consequence of the recent debt deal is the way it has highlighted a growing divide within the Republican Party between budget-cutters and defense hawks. Eli Lake’s recent piece in The New Republic offers a comprehensive look at how the shift in the GOP foreign policy debate is playing out in the party’s presidential race.

Lake points out that many prominent figures in the GOP and the conservative movement now view the defense budget as a source of potential savings. He notes that, last year, “27 leading conservative activists—including Al Regnery, the conservative book publisher; Brent Bozell, the head of the Media Research Center; David Keene, the former head of the American Conservative Union; and [Americans for Tax Reform president Grover] Norquist—sent a letter to the House leadership calling for cuts in military spending.”

Lake goes on to argue that the effects of this shift can be seen in presidential candidates’ stances. He writes that “the penny-pinching mood among Republicans [has] influenced the general tenor of GOP foreign policy discussions—and made the candidates less inclined to sound the kinds of grandiose and expensive notes about foreign policy that were considered par for the course in 2008.” The most prominent example he cites is presumed front-runner Mitt Romney’s uncertainty about the war in Afghanistan: “[Romney] has also flirted with the idea that it’s time to wrap up the mission and leave. ‘One lesson we’ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence,’ he said at a debate in June.”

Another major theme of Lake’s article is the mainstreaming of fears that sharia law is coming to the United States within the GOP presidential field. He points out that Michele Bachmann, who is widely thought to be a viable contender for the nomination, praised a controversial report warning about the spread of sharia in the U.S. for its “systematic and thorough … research, which will highly add to the discussion of sharia law’s impact on the United States.” Lake also notes that Tim Pawlenty has “felt the need to nod in the same direction” by having a spokesman explain that he “does think there is a threat from sharia … of undermining U.S. law and the Constitution.”

Lake’s discussion of this issue suggests that, for many in the GOP, fears about sharia law have become a substitute for serious thinking about national security policy. He implies that Bachmann’s “conviction that sharia law is a threat to the United States,” rather than careful study of the Middle East, played a major role in her decisions to oppose the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and back a resolution to end American military involvement in Libya.

Click here to read Eli Lake’s full piece.

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18 Comments so far ↓

  • rbottoms

    Lake’s discussion of this issue suggests that, for many in the GOP, fears about sharia law have become a substitute for serious thinking about national security policy.

    Which only reflects the stupidity of the GOP base. In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue, details at 11.

  • WTBoy

    It’s a vicious cycle. Ironically, the debt deal will probably be counter-productive, increasing the impact of the recession. Cutting defense spending will cause an increase in unemployment, which both drains resources, and cuts tax revenues. http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2011/07/krugman-proposed-debt-deal-will-cost-jobs-and-revenue/

    “The Pentagon may be forced to cut $550 billion over the next ten years, and if a Congressional committee cannot find an additional $1.2 trillion in savings by November, the Pentagon will have to cut its spending by another $600 billion.” http://mediascrape.com/all-posts/world-news/u-s-debt-deal-squeezes-defence-spending-unemployment-benefits-and-local-governments/

  • rbottoms

    Cutting defense spending will cause an increase in unemployment, which both drains resources, and cuts tax revenues.

    So defense is a jobs program? Funny I thought it was about protecting the country, not protecting Raytheon’s profits. Double the Special Forces budget, scrap gold plated Navy and Air Force ships and jets, end the ridiculous Star Wars black hole, and there will be plenty of money to fight 14th century bandits.

    We are still preparing to fight the Russians even though they don’t exist, while our war with China will be fought with computer viruses and EMP devices.

    The current defense budget is designed to fight three full scale naval, tank, and air wars with enemies who no longer carry out warfare like Rommel vs. Patton.

    • Primrose

      I’m with Rbottoms here. Defense should not be a jobs program. Also, we are not preparing for the wars that are occurring now. Cyber war has already arrived.

  • chicago_guy

    Re: China, they take our jobs, and send back everything we use in daily life at artificially low prices, building up even greater dependence on them.

    Seems they won already.

    • rbottoms

      That’s why I don’t shop at WalMart. I give my money to China only when I have to.

    • talkradiosucks.com

      It’s funny because I was thinking about this today when I won a freelancing project from a client in China. I am starting to wonder about how long it will really be until the tables turn completely.

  • NRA Liberal

    Funny to muse about the inversion of the parties.

    The Democrats are wresting the green eyeshade from the GOP. Will they take defense too?

  • ProfNickD

    The premise of the article is wrong: the “defense” budget over the past 10 years has morphed into an “offense” budget.

    A genuine defense budget would not presume to spend nearly as much as the entire rest of the world combined.

    http://www.realclearworld.com/blog/201104/us_military_spending_vs_the_world.html

  • llbroo49

    This is just a political ploy by some conservatives. Putting defense on the table for cuts gives them cover against defending the military industrial complex over social programs. Defense policy has sort of lost it’s shine ever since Obama has shown a willingness to use it.

    Besides, given the choice of sacrificing defense or tax cuts, what did you think they would choose?

  • Rob_654

    Given the size of Defense spending – and that we are running a deficit – how about those who want to keep Defense spending where it is ask for a “Defense Tax” to raise money directly for Defense and that way the American people can determine whether or not they believe that Defense needs to be funded at the current level.

    Do we really need the Blue Angles, the Thunderbirds, bands, etc…?

    While I enjoy watching them all – are they really part of Defending the United States and while the money they may spend on these and other items in Defense is small compared to the total – that is everyone’s argument on almost any topic…

    Do we need to have bases all over the world?

    How about letting other countries know that while we are allies and we will help out if they are attacked they can’t just pawn off their defense on the United States and if they want to protect themselves they’ll have to step up and start spending more of their money on defense – if they choose not to – while we’ll help if they are attacked we won’t fight for them completely while they hide out and wait for the bullets to stop flying.

    • drdredel

      While I agree with the bulk of your sentiment (and am all in favor of a massive defense overhaul where we basically get rid of 80+% of our military), I think you should leave the Angels be! They’re friggin AWESOME!

      WOOOOSH!

      And really… if ever there was a drop in the bucket (yes, I get it, it’s a pretty massive bucket)….

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  • Steve D

    What potential foes know about us:
    1. America can always be beaten in asymmetrical warfare because we lose patience and give up. And those fighting the asymmetrical war are not necessarily the good guys. The Taliban is as evil as the KKK, in fact, the two are strikingly similar.
    2. If you want to commit genocide you can do it with impunity if you do it in a country that’s logistically difficult to reach, especially if intervening would likely result in a lot of American casualties. See Rwanda, Sudan, Cambodia, etc. We succeeded to some extent in the Balkans because we could project air power against a developed country and the genocidists didn’t want to be sent back to the Stone Age.
    3. A nation that’s too lazy to learn foreign languages will be fatally crippled trying to deal with 1. and 2.