To Save the Republic, Republicans Must Slash Defense Spending

FILE - In this April 5, 2011 file photo, Republican Vice Presidential candidate, current House Budget Committee Chairman Rep.
FILE - In this April 5, 2011 file photo, Republican Vice Presidential candidate, current House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., introduces his controversial "Path to Prosperity" budget recommendations, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Paul Ryan traveled a perilous route to political stardom. While other lawmakers nervously whistled past trillion-dollar deficits, fearing to cut popular programs, he waded in with a machete and a smile. Ryan wants to slice away at Medicare, Social Security, food stamps and virtually every other government program but the military. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

For those who believe we can still recover from our fiscal and economic death spiral, the time for hard choices has come. I'm talking to you, staunch Republican defenders of the military-industrial complex. I am begging you to rethink your priorities. What good will it do to preserve a military second to none if there is nothing left worth defending?

Through a century of wars, both cold and hot, America's brave men and women in uniform successfully protected us from the external threats of fascism and communism. But the greatest threats facing America today don't come from foreign enemies. They come from within.

An economic catastrophe brought about by the destruction of the dollar and the bankruptcy of federal, state, and local governments will not lead America back to its roots as a constitutionally limited republic of strictly enumerated powers. A thriving free market will not rise from the ashes of an economy ravaged by crony capitalism, too-big-to-fail rogue banks, overregulation, excessive taxation, and runaway federal spending that perpetuates dependency on handouts.

If we don't mend our ways and the inevitable collapse follows, the last vestiges of our unique American experiment will be swept away in a populist call for more of what killed us.

So stop and think. Freedom is about to make its last stand right here at home. Shouldn't defending it be our first priority?

It's not like we couldn't see it coming. Remember George Washington's warning about standing armies in his "Sentiments on a Peace Establishment." Consider Dwight D. Eisenhower's well-informed advice about the military-industrial complex in his farewell address. Recall John Quincy Adams's admonishment that "America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy." These are deeply conservative American principles, which genuine conservatives need to champion.

The Constitution makes it crystal clear that one of the federal government's essential functions is to provide for the national defense, but nowhere does it call for Americans to defend everyone in the world against every possible threat. The burden that fell on us at the end of the Second World War must now be laid down. Pax Americana may once have paid dividends, but those are no longer commensurate with the costs.

The Democratic Party's tax, spend, borrow, and print mentality cannot be effectively challenged by an opposition party that clings to its own kind of pork. Compromise only means one thing in Congress: You vote for my spending initiatives and I'll vote for yours. This is what got us into the mess we are in today; it cannot possibly get us out of it. To be effective, Republicans must make a principled stand that reduces the size and scope of government in all spheres -- including defense.

That does not mean that spending should be slashed blindly, although the modest cuts in the recently postponed sequestration are as good a place to start as any. Our military needs to be right-sized for the right mission with a laser-like focus on return on investment. We also need to step away from missions that are not rightfully ours. This begins with ending the provision of free defense services to allies that are perfectly capable of defending themselves.

If Japan or South Korea or Europe or any other ally with an advanced economy wants to avail themselves of our defense capabilities, we should send them a bill sufficient to make it worth our while. If they don't pay up, our troops should come home and our money-losing foreign bases should be closed.

Maintaining a navy large enough to patrol the high seas is a core responsibility of the military. A credible nuclear deterrent is a must. But there is no reason to maintain the capability to invade foreign countries. Yes, wicked governments around the world continue to prey on their own people, but no, it is not our job to rescue them despite heartbreaking images on the news. Nor does it make any sense to give advanced weaponry to unstable regimes that could turn these weapons against us in a heartbeat.

Only a fool or a defense contractor believes we will ever go to war with Russia or China. We won the Cold War when Soviet communism collapsed under the weight of its own inherent contradictions. Today, Russia is a crony capitalist oligarchy exporting natural gas, not an expansionist communist menace violently exporting a dangerous ideology. China, Inc. has become one of our most important trading partners as well as our biggest international creditor. The Chinese leadership knows that a war with the U.S. would mean widespread domestic unemployment, likely followed by revolution.

Our enemies today are failed states and Islamist terrorists. They have neither modern air forces nor significant navies. Their weapons systems are primitive. They fight asymmetric warfare with the goal of forcing their enemies to consume disproportionate resources. Let's fine-tune our military to bomb them back to the Stone Age on an as-needed basis, but as soon as we're done it is time to come home. Nation building in corrupt, tribal societies is expensive, counterproductive, and just plain idiotic.

Yes, a retreat from being the world's policeman still leaves us with two big wild cards -- a nuclear North Korea and a soon-to-be nuclear capable Iran. I have no easy answers for these, and neither does anyone else. But we do know one thing: Bankrupting the U.S. will not make insane paranoid dictators or jihad-preaching mullahs disappear. Our strongest defense is taking care of business at home. And that won't happen unless Republicans in Congress stop pursuing business as usual and boldly gain negotiating leverage by agreeing to cuts in the military budget as the first step toward overhauling our bloated entitlement programs.