Defense & National Security

America needs to lead from the front

America needs to lead from the front

America’s role in the world has not been at the center of American political debate during the past four years.

President Obama is largely responsible for this continuing leadership failure to articulate the threats and challenges we face, and the imperative to defend our values and interests. Unlike the bipartisan line of presidents since Franklin Roosevelt, Obama has simply not paid adequate attention to U.S. national security.

President Kennedy said in his inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Obama is clearly no Jack Kennedy.

And what we have seen in Obama’s first term will only get worse in a second term. His famous “open microphone” conversation with Russian President Medvedev, where he asks for more “space” until after his re-election, when he will be more “flexible,” tells us everything we need to know.

Obama has consistently ignored or misunderstood the broad and deep relationship between a strong American presence internationally and economic growth at home. Ironically for a president who has almost no time for foreign policy, the plain truth is that U.S. strength around the world directly contributes to protecting and enhancing the American dream domestically.

Whatever security and stability exists globally, and there is precious little of it, is supplied by the United States and its alliances and friendships.

Our economic, political and military strength enables international trade, investment, communications and travel that contribute enormously to sustained prosperity for U.S. citizens.

Other countries benefit (and many of them plainly do not contribute their fair share of the cost), but our national security policy is not for them alone. We are acting for ourselves and our future. If America retreats from its forward position in the world, there are only two alternatives, neither one of them desirable from our perspective.

One possibility is that there will be a vacuum globally, with no other power able to fill our shoes (although many will try, thus contributing to the further breakdown of peace and security). As a consequence, even the minimal international stability we now have will dwindle.

The other, even worse, is that another country will step in to fill the void, and reshape the international landscape to its liking, not ours. None of the potential candidates will have America’s best interests in mind.

Despite Obama’s palpable unwillingness to discuss openly and honestly with the American people the threats we face around the world, those threats have been growing under his administration.

Adversaries aren’t waiting

Our adversaries are not gracious enough to wait for us to get our economic house in order. They have carefully watched Obama’s performance, and both friend and adversary alike judge him to be weak, inattentive, and indecisive.

They have recalibrated their own policies accordingly, and a second Obama term, therefore, will almost inevitably mean an increase in the pace and scope of challenges we will face.

Whatever the Obama Administration’s rhetoric, the global war against terrorism must continue, not because we desire it but because the terrorists are determined to do us harm.

Not surprisingly, apologetic rhetoric from Obama has only emboldened them. The proliferation of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in rogue states like Iran and North Korea has grown more threatening not less. The lack of a U.S. grand strategy to deal with the rising challenges of an increasingly authoritarian and assertive Russia or the growing conventional, cyber and nuclear warfare capabilities of an expansive China has only grown more apparent. The need for effective U.S. leadership is clear.

Take the Middle East as just one example of the collapse of American policy, resolve and capabilities under President Obama.

We see Iran’s continued progress toward nuclear weapons; the resurgence of al Qaeda and other terrorists and radicals, demonstrated by the tragic assassination of our Ambassador to Libya and three of his colleagues, and attacks on our embassies elsewhere; and President Obama’s open disdain for the security of Israel, our closest ally in the region.

These failures cry out for a new president. Mitt Romney understands that the best way to preserve international peace and security is for America to lead from the front. President Obama believes that American strength is provocative, that we are too much in the world, and that a recessed U.S. presence is necessary and appropriate. This is exactly opposite of what we need. It is not our strength that is provocative, but our weakness, which our adversaries worldwide interpret to mean it is safe to challenge us.

We must reverse our dangerous decline, and return to Ronald Reagan’s philosophy of “peace through strength.” It has worked throughout our history, and it will work again under President Romney.

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