Opinion

DOD Buzz dumbs down defense debate

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James Carafano
Director, Heritage Foundation's Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies
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      James Carafano

      James Jay Carafano is a leading expert in national security, defense affairs, and homeland security at The Heritage Foundation. He has testified before the U.S. Congress many times and has provided commentary for ABC, BBC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, C-SPAN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, SkyNews, PBS, National Public Radio, the History Channel, Voice of America, Al Jazeera, and Australian, Austrian, Canadian, French, Greek, Hong Kong, Irish, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish television.

      His editorials have appeared in newspapers nationwide including The Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe, The New York Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today and The Washington Times. He is a weekly columnist at the DC Examiner. Carafano is a member of the National Academy's Board on Army Science and Technology, the Department of the Army Historical Advisory Committee, and is a Senior Fellow at the George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute. He was the creative director for the feature-length documentary 33 Minutes: Protecting America in the New Missile Age. An accomplished historian and teacher, Carafano was an Assistant Professor at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and served as director of military studies at the Army's Center of Military History. He also taught at Mount Saint Mary College in New York and served as a fleet professor at the U.S. Naval War College.

      He is a visiting professor at the National Defense University and Georgetown University. He is the author of many books and studies. Carafano coauthored Winning the Long War: Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom. The first to coin the term, the "long war," the authors argue that a successful strategy requires a balance of prudent military and security measures, continued economic growth, the zealous protection of civil liberties and winning the "war of ideas" against terrorist ideologies. Carafano joined Heritage in 2003. Before becoming a policy expert, he served 25 years in the Army.

      A graduate of West Point, Carafano also has a master's degree and a doctorate from Georgetown University and a master's degree in strategy from the U.S. Army War College.

Colin Clark misses the mark in his latest piece for DOD Buzz. Even the title, “GOP To Tea Party: Don’t Cut Defense,” is wrong.

The opening sentence is no better. Indeed, it makes two mistakes. “With one wary eye on the Tea Party movement and its potentially isolationist policies,” Clark writes, “representatives of GOP think tanks sent a simple message today: don’t cut Pentagon weapons systems in the belief that the American homeland can be protected without a military that can fight and project power around the globe.”

Clark was covering a briefing on the Hill by The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and The Foreign Policy Initiative. All three institutions embrace conservative values, but they are determinedly nonpartisan. None of the three is affiliated with the Republican Party.

His second mistake is to suggest that the Tea Parties lean “isolationist.” Sure, their ranks include many libertarians who don’t think much of the Reagan mantra “peace through strength.” But there are also many Tea Partiers who hold that the one thing Washington must do is meet its constitutional responsibility to “provide for the common defense.”

Liberals have lately taken to telling themselves that they can attract Tea Party support by gutting the defense budget. Such wishful thinking only demonstrates how poorly they understand the movement.

The Barney Frank-Ron Paul project that calls for slashing Pentagon spending is close to a Looney-Tune alliance. Tea Party rank-and-file know that no matter how much the Barney Franks of Washington cut defense, they’ll still never shrink federal spending or reduce the size of government. Those “savings” will merely be plowed into other, more dubious government works aimed a stimulating this or bailing out that.

Nor are most Tea Party proponents interested in leaving our men and women in uniform short of the tools they need to protect us and survive.

The fundamental error here is the fancy that the AEI-Heritage-FPI project is aimed at the Tea Party. It’s not the Tea Party that aims to slash defense spending; it’s the Obama administration. And it’s not the Tea Party that determines defense appropriations; it’s Congress.

The ears the Defending Defense project is trying to catch are in the Oval Office, the Old Executive Office Building and the Capitol.

The administration believes treaties and “soft power” diplomacy are an adequate substitute for protecting yourself. It thinks it can get away with shortchanging defense by claiming that it’s fiscally prudent.

This was no “GOP to Tea Party” briefing. It was a “Think Tank to Ruling Elites” briefing. Let’s hope the Obama administration listened better than Colin Clark did.

James Jay Carafano is senior research fellow for national and homeland security at The Heritage Foundation.