Russia, Iran, energy independence, China, Syria, Venezuela…as former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice so eloquently told a nationwide audience last night “the world is a chaotic and dangerous place.”
Today’s world is indeed far more complicated than the Cold War; a successful American foreign and defense policy needs sophistication in order to deal with situations ranging from Russian recalcitrance in helping halt the carnage in Syria to American-born extremist mullahs living offshore inciting America’s Muslim soldiers to kill non-Muslim soldiers to a possible Iranian nuclear bomb.
The GOP platform says the Republican Party is “the party of peace through strength.” It criticizes the Obama administration for its alleged weak positions towards countries such as North Korea, China and Iran, its reductions in military spending, and using the military for social engineering. The Republican national military strategy “restores as a principal objective the deterrence using the full spectrum of our military capabilities.” To do this, Gov Romney intends to substantially increase the defense budget — which in 2012 is greater than the defense budgets of next 20 countries combined.
However, last week, Tea Party-Libertarian favorite Sen. Rand Paul spoke at the Republican Convention by telling the audience that “Republicans must realize that not every dollar spent on the military is either necessary or well-spent.”
His isolationist and Tea Party-popular budget-cutting views clash diametrically with Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) following speech in which McCain warned that “if America doesn’t lead, our adversaries will, and the world will grow darker, poorer and much more dangerous.” Both McCain and Rice claimed Obama took a backseat to NATO during the battle for Libya and should intervene to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
The question therefore arises as to whether a Romney/Ryan Administration will follow McCain-Rice’s quest for robust engagement, or the Paul-Ryan budget-slashing, withdrawal from the world scene.
The Ryan Budget forces the United States to adapt an isolationist foreign policy that ignores the many issues worldwide until they blow up into a crisis that costs substantial American blood and treasure. An examination of Ryan’s Budget, passed twice in the GOP-led House, illustrates their foreign policy-defense policy inexperience:
1. Counterinsurgency Funding: Cut USAID by $121m (9%), which halts new civilian programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are necessary for the counterinsurgency strategy to work. US military commanders call these programs vitally important.
2. Iraq Transition, Afghanistan/Pakistan Operations: Cut State Department operations by $1.2 billion (12%), meaning the transition from military to civilian responsibility in Iraq, and State operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, are jeopardized.
3. Border Democracy Promotion: Cut the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which provides assistance to countries that meet government improvement goals, by $315 million. Cut Development Assistance by $746 million.
4. International First Responders: Cut the Civilian Stabilization Initiative by $103 million, which trains civilians to reconstruct and stabilize war torn, disaster ridden, and unstable countries, to prevent future conflict. Cut International Disaster Assistance by $415m, and the Complex Crisis Fund by $50 million.
5. International Conflict Prevention: Eliminated all funding ($42.6m) for the U.S. Institute for Peace, a Congressional agency that prevents and resolves international conflict, and stabilizes post-conflict states, including Afghanistan.
6. Starvation Prevention/Weak State Stabilization: Cuts Food For Peace, which delivers bags of food stamped “USA” to the people of weak and failing states, by $687 million.
It’s from these parts of the world where threats to the United States will arise; those failed and failing states where warlords and religious extremists instead of governments provides basic services, and a gallon of drinking water costs more than a gallon of gasoline.
Instead, Gov Romney seems to see the world in cold-war terms, where the United States fights Russia, Iran, or China in a conventional war of bombing campaigns and sea battles. He’s calling for substantially increased defense spending in order to fund more ships, airplanes, and a ballistic missile defense system while simultaneously cutting taxes. Many will claim that this Bush-style spending is what caused most of the national debt increase since 2003’s war in Iraq.
Yet despite his call to increase defense spending, Romney is simultaneously calling the Defense Department bureaucracy “bloated to the point of dysfunction.” On this he is correct; the Air Force has spent a trillion dollars on two airplanes that are unable to fly in combat (F-22, F-35), while the Navy’s failing Littoral Combat Ship program has spent $ 600 million dollars on a single small ship, LCS-1, their own inspectors call ‘unsafe’ and is unseaworthy and combat-unsurvivable– yet they plan to buy an additional 53.
Funding such ill-conceived programs will be difficult in view of budget realities, so the Ryan Budget proposes substantial cuts to the State Department, whose total budget -including the aid programs the Ryan budget wants to cut – is only $54 billion. That’s only 1.3% of the entire U.S. budget, as compared to DoD’s 28-32%
What’s missing from the Republican platform (as it was in 2008) is any mention of America’s war in Afghanistan. Today there are 70,000 Marines and soldiers fighting a resurgent Taliban, and while the GOP has faulted Obama for "weakness," they have yet to describe how their approach would differ from his.
In today’s world, while Russia is a major supplier of oil to the United States, it also vetoes U.S.-UN efforts to halt the carnage in Syria – but supports the U.S, -UN efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Similarly, as China expands its Navy in order to gain control of the South China Sea and neighboring shipping lanes, they need U.S. markets in order to keep their factories running and their people working.
It’s a complex world today–and one that sound-bytes from Tampa don’t adequately address.
This post originally appeared on the Truman National Security Project's Truman Doctrine blog.