My two cents: Refining the Republican message (pt 1)

two-centsIt seems that the Republican Party leadership is determined to lose as many seats as possible in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The American voter is looking for any party that will stand up and give a sound vision for an optimistic future for the nation and present a plan on how to achieve that vision. In an election year that should begin the process of winning a larger majority in the House, regaining control of the Senate by even a slim margin, and setting its sights on winning the White House, the Republican Party leadership has instead declared war on its conservative base of constituents, demands that true conservatives forsake the traditional Republican platform and reach a consensus with both rhinos and moderate Democrats, while only making lip service to actually opposing out of control government spending and overreach of executive power. For all practical purposes, many American voters do not see any real difference between the Republican and Democratic parties national leadership.

Traditionally, the Republican Party has always been identified with smaller national government while maintaining the argument since World War II that the defense of this nation must remain a priority. While Liberals like to fondly remember the Reagan years as being “the closest that the U.S. came to nuclear war” and portray Reagan as a fear-peddler and warmonger, it is important to understand that Reagan was simply another statesman in a long line of Republican and Democratic presidents that understood the need for strong national defense. Presidents Truman (D), Eisenhower (R), Kennedy (D), and to some extent, Ford (R), saw the importance of developing a strong deterrent through the combined strategies of conventional and nuclear warfare to maintain an uneasy peace with the Soviet Union and China. The policies pursued by Reagan, while shared nothing in common with Johnson (D), Nixon (R), or Carter (D), had more in common with the previous presidents than with the later three.

Communism was seen as a threat to the American way of life; the military strategies that were developed in the years after World War II and maintained until 2010 were designed to protect the nation from the Soviet Union and China based on a two-front war strategy. The architects of this defensive posture considered both a major war in Europe and Asia as the most likely scenario with a third undeclared front being a polar bomber/missile attack. What has been most misunderstood is that the “reset button” presented to the Russians by Secretary of State Clinton was not only far from reality, it was not even well grounded in fantasy. Since his climb to power, Vladimir Putin has made one thing clear – he plans to rebuild a new Soviet Union that will comprise the territories of the old Imperial Russia, the old Soviet sphere of influence, and enough additional territory to truly make Russia the undisputed dominant power in Europe (see Moscow troops could be in five NATO capitals in two days for Putin’s most recent comments). What are America’s intentions? The United States has become a passive spectator for the expanding Third World War.

Since the Carter administration there has been a drawdown in defense spending and in the military. In all fairness, this drawdown has not been continual and actually was reversed in the Reagan administration and after September 11, 2001. Since then, the armed forces of the United States has been on a reduction plan that if fully implemented, will draw our armed forces to their smallest state prior to the First World War in spite of the increased external threats to our nation and national interests. Currently, if the United States were to face a two-front war as was faced in World War II, the nation would be grossly unprepared. The average American knows this, our politicians and military leaders know this, and our enemies know this. This is why there has been an increase in Chinese and Russian warplanes that have entered American airspace within the last four years. America is in a far more dangerous situation than it was just seven years ago. This is something that could easily become a Republican platform issue. Increasing our national defense through spending and through a comprehensive overhaul of our defense strategies would not only be something that would resonate with most voters, but would set the Republican Party off from the current political environment under the Democratic Party leadership.

In reality, the United States has witnessed an increase in threats to our national security. Both China and Russia have increased their defense spending nearly 37% in the last five years; some estimate that China may be spending as much as 39% of its GDP on defense spending alone. While many Democrats and Liberals tout the need for reducing American military spending because we spend more than any other nation (in fiscal year 2012, $664.84 billion or 40.07% if U.S. GDP), the important difference between the spending of the United States, China, and Russia is what is calculated in the defense budgets. The United States incorporates Interstate maintenance, the Veteran’s Administration, retirees, military dependent benefits, weapons development, weapons procurement, training, the costs associated with the G.I. Bill, military and DOD civilian salaries, NASA, and humanitarian efforts in the defense budget. Reports submitted to the United Nations actually indicate that neither China or Russia consider retirees, their space programs, humanitarian aid, transportation infrastructure, or weapons development as a part of their annual defense spending.

While Reagan did increase deficit spending in rebuilding America’s military might, there were direct benefits to the American citizen. The defense industry hired more employees; these jobs were high paying jobs which did increase tax revenues at the local, state, and national level. Although often criticized by its opponents, the “trickle down” economics did increase the standard of living for all who actively participated (who had a job) through the administrations of the next two presidents. It was the increased defense spending and investment in America’s defense that allowed the economy to continue to grow well into the Clinton administration. If the Republican Party would address the current economic slump the nation is in and present the need for increased defense spending and weapons development, a redefining of the real national threats from the Chinese, Russians, and rogue nations, it would not only provide a strong pro-economic growth platform, but could demonstrate America’s weakened position under two terms of Mr. Obama . As a student of history, the United States must prepare to face its enemies not in the form of a traditional two-front war, but from multiple threats. The United States must be prepared to fight a traditional three front war (Asia, Europe, and the Americas), neutralize threats from space, and cyberspace. The threats are real and if the United States is going to continue to be a superpower and limit the risk of attack, the armed forces must be prepared to defend this nation with the most up-to-date equipment and technology at its disposal.

Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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