Reagan had it right on national security

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“The United States does not start fights…We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression — to preserve freedom and peace.” President Ronald Reagan

Barack Obama once provocatively said, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” One would hope that such Chicago thuggery would be aimed at our international adversaries, but no. This was a comment he made during the campaign at a fundraiser and his bravado was aimed at his Republican opponents. This week’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) announcement sounds more like, “If they bring a knife, we bring an apology.”

President Reagan understood all too well what this president and other liberals like him chose to ignore: strength equals deterrence equals peace. Since the Cold War, our nuclear arsenal has provided this strong and much needed deterrent to other nuclear countries. Equally important, our arsenal has been a robust deterrent to non-nuclear nations who might employ biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction against the United States.

The Obama administration’s recently released NPR weakens this crucial deterrent by announcing to the world that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries, even in the event of a chemical or biological attack against the United States. Charles Krauthammer called this policy “insane.” We are effectively tying our own hands by limiting our ability to defend and respond to an attack on our nation at a time when non-nuclear rogue nations represent a substantial threat to this country.

This posture significantly undermines not only our national security, but the security of our partners and allies as well—many of whom have chosen not to develop and deploy WMDs of their own solely based on the credibility of the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent. This policy is simple-minded and naïve and a step in the wrong direction.

For the past 60 years, Democrat and Republican administrations alike adhered to the nuclear deterrent stratagem. Barack Obama has declared this week that they were all wrong. But this president has failed to sufficiently articulate why the United States should shift its posture in such a profound way. We kept the peace in Europe for decades—where the Soviets enjoyed a huge numerical advantage of conventional weapons and tanks—because they worried about our nuclear response. If you’re an ally of ours today, this same level of deterrence no longer exists with this new policy.

The United States needs to be looking forward, as President Reagan was, focusing on the modernization and recapitalization of America’s armed forces and an aging nuclear weapons complex, expanding missile defense systems, and increasing investment in crucial long range strike technologies such as the next generation bomber. These types of policies would strengthen a much needed deterrent, reassure our partners and allies, and in the end, result in a more peaceful and stable world. By unilaterally announcing an unprecedented shift in American nuclear policy, we are acting as an agent of destabilization.

This is the latest in what has become a dangerously troubling pattern of policy shifts from the Obama administration. This president said no to missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. He’s about to limit our delivery systems of both conventional and nuclear weapons in a new deal with the Russians and he continues to put forth significant budget cuts in national defense spending – cuts that will have a profound effect on our ability to wage two wars and maintain military readiness.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I work daily to ensure our men and women have the resources they need to protect this country, and I continue to be dismayed by the national security policies coming out of this White House. Simply put, President Obama is disadvantaging the United States one step at a time and undermining this country’s national defense on purpose. Whether he is catering to the anti-war leftists or truly doing what he thinks is best for our security, the president is leading this nation down a very dangerous path.

John Fleming is a physician and small-business owner and represents the 4th Congressional District of Louisiana. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and previously served as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy.