Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hagel and Republican National Security Policy

This is a cross-post from something I posted at the Navy site I write for.  I think it belongs here too.  "Raymond" in the first paragraph is the blogmaster in the first paragraph.


Raymond summoned the spirit of James Joyner from the Atlantic in this piece on the Hagel nomination the other day, and Joyner has responded.  In a piece entitled "No Longer the Party of Eisenhower and Reagan", Joyner makes the case that the Hagel nomination could signal an inflection point for a moribund Republican foreign policy that seems no longer to be able to digest the likes of Hagel, Huntsman, and Scowcroft (and presumably, Joyner).  It is a good piece, well argued and with some very good points.  It deserves some discussion.

1.  First, I cannot agree strongly enough with the rising chorus of observers--some in the Republican Party and some on the outside--that Republican national security policy is adrift.  When I think about the wistful longing for Eisenhower that Joyner and others evoke, I too am transported back--back to a time when an American President truly understood strategy and then made strategic choices.  This component of national security thinking is what is MOST lacking in the Republican Party I hold dear.  I don't hear major standard bearers standing up and saying "we spend too much on our national defense because we do not think hard enough, we do not make choices, and we pay the penalty for our laziness in excessive defense budgets".  Were party leaders to begin talking and thinking like this, the "new" Republican Party would respond.

2.  I cannot accept the view of those who see the rejection of Hagel, Huntsman et al as a sign of the foreign policy decline of the Party.  It is politics, pure and simple; you don't get to openly support Democrats and still be looked to as a grandee in the Republican Party.  Republican national security thinking is in decline for a lot of reasons, but not because some have decided criticize those who  stake out the "every Democrat's favorite Republican" territory.

3.  A new Republican Foreign Policy should also go back and review George H.W. Bush's approach, which Scowcroft and others were responsible for.  It made no bones about American leadership and primacy (from a strategic communications standpoint), but in action took a selective engagement approach with respect for international organizations in which the US exercised outsized weight.  Not only have many Republicans failed to understand the necessity to make strategic choices about what our nation invests in (in terms of its military), we (as a Party) have too many leaders who seem to be ready to jump into whatever mudpit we can find without a serious discussion of national interest.  This activist wing of the Party all too often finds succor with the "Responsibility to Protect" crowd on the other side of the political spectrum, which seems only to be able to bring itself to commit American power when there is NO vested interest at stake. 

4.  The other marriage of convenience I reject (which the Obama/Hagel condominium represents) is that of those who wish to reduce America's influence as a policy matter derived of a sense of American over-reach (Obama) with those who wish to reduce America's influence as a policy matter derived of a sense of Allied under-reach (the Offshore Balancing/Hagel Crowd).  It matters not HOW it gets there, but the result will be a smaller, less capable, and less influential military less capable of global operations.  While I applaud Joyner for reprinting some views of Hagel from 20004, his more recent views seem to place him squarely in the Offshore Balancing crowd--an approach I find unsuitable to the issue of a rising peer competitor (and which Hagel was clearly not addressing in 2004).

So what is to be done?  What are the potential elements of a Republican National Security Policy?  How about these (I could use a foreign policy doppelganger to strengthen this).

1.  The United States position in the world is unique and it is in the interests of the American people to advance and sustain it.  We are the world's indispensable nation, and our national security policy will reflect it.  While other nations are growing in terms of economic power, no other nation combines American economic, military and political power, and no other nation can or will fill America's role in the world for decades to come.  The world needs a powerful and influential America, and this position redounds to the benefit of the American people.

2.  The United States will not shrink from its interests, and those interests are best served through a combination of forward deployed military strength, active participation in regional forums, close and mutually beneficial diplomatic relations, and free-and-open trade.  While it is comforting to consider shrinking from the world and getting others to "pay their share", it is an invitation to instability and conflict, both of which threaten our security and our prosperity.  It is in America's interest to pay the price required to lead the world, as our position of leadership works to the benefit of every American.

3.  Our strong, central, and positive role in the world is not boundless.  We will resource the world's strongest military, but we must make critical strategic choices about how that military is comprised.  We will favor mobile, flexible, forward deployed combat power suitable to protecting and sustaining our peacetime interests and our national security, while retaining the capability to mobilize for general war from a garrisoned base.  Naval and aerospace power will be favored over land power.  We will upgrade and reduce our strategic nuclear arsenal.  The nuclear triad served us well during the Cold War, but three separate methods of destroying the world is wasteful.  To this end, we will continue to operate our fleet of ballistic missile submarines until the end of their service lives, but they will not be replaced.

4.  We will be active leaders in world and regional forums.  We will work hard with friends, allies and others to reach consensus approaches to conflict.  We do not relinquish the right to act unilaterally in protecting our national interests, but our preference will always be for coalition action.  We will work with our friends and allies to increase their contributions to their own security, especially in increasing those capabilities that our strategic choices de-emphasize.  We will lead a strong team--on the field--not on the sidelines.

5.  We seek a strong military at a reasonable price.  We reject the notion that such a military deprives the nation of resources that should be applied elsewhere; rather, we believe that such a military creates the conditions for the prosperity that drives our economy forward.  Said another way, we cannot look first to cutting the defense budget to fund other domestic priorities; we should look there last.  Such a view demands that resources allocated to defense be spent wisely, and we as a party have not done this well in the recent past, preferring to overspend rather than make tough choices.  We will make those choices now. We support a consistent base level of defense spending, and we believe it should be proportional to the extent of our global interests as measured in gross domestic product.  Protecting and sustaining our enduring vital interests is what creates the minimum investment in national security, while the response to growing or actual threats creates additional requirements.  We propose to spend a minimum of 3.75% of GDP on national defense on an annual basis, and we recognize that if GDP declines, so should defense spending. 

6.  We assert that Democracy is the political system most consistent with human nature, and we will favor those nations where it is practiced.  We cannot however, create it where it does not exist, and we will not attempt to impose it where it is nascent.  The tide of history has turned, democracy and free markets have prevailed.  Our role now is to be stewards of this evolution, not guarantors.

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