America's Provocative Weakness

Among former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s many illuminating “rules” is his trenchant observation that “weakness is provocative.” Indeed, the accelerating instability we see worldwide is, in no small measure, a product of the weakness being communicated at every turn by Barack Obama’s administration. Worse yet, the steps the President is taking to weaken America further will make it vastly more difficult to contend with the aggression he has invited.

In a characteristically brilliant op-ed article in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson warned that the United States was engaged in the defense and foreign policy equivalent of the Federal Reserve’s bid to begin weaning the economy off of its massive purchases of U.S. T-bills that is known as the “taper” that has roiled world markets and currencies. As Prof. Ferguson puts it: “We are witnessing [a fundamental shift] in the national security strategy of the U.S. – and, like the Fed’s tapering, this one also means big repercussions for the world.”

Consider but a few of examples of such repercussions:

  • China has declared much of the East and South China Seas to be its territorial waters.  The PRC’s growing military seems determined to press its claims to the Senkaku Islands to--and perhaps past--the brink of war with Japan. And the People’s Liberation Army is putting into place the means by which it can effectively checkmate what is left of the United States’ ability to project power in support of American treaty obligations to the Japanese and perhaps others in the region.
  • The Iranian mullahs now know that the U.S. and the rest of the so-called “international community” will not be able to prevent the realization of their decades-old nuclear ambitions. Consequently, the Iranians are brazenly; doubling down on their bet on Bashir Assad in Syria; angling for hegemony in the Persian Gulf; penetrating our hemisphere with intelligence operations, money-laundering schemes and the insertion of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and proxy forces--including the designated terrorist group, Hezbollah; and, most recently, sending warships and other vessels into the Atlantic and Caribbean.
  • Of particular concern is the emboldening of Iran arising from President Obama’s surrendering of Iraq to its tender mercies-- and those of its sometime partner, sometime enemy, al Qaeda. We will shortly find fresh evidence of how provocative our weakness is when Mr. Obama does the same with respect to the Taliban in Afghanistan--especially if, in the interim, he replenishes their leadership by releasing five of the organization’s top, battle-hardened jihadist commanders from Guantanamo Bay.
  • Speaking of ships in our waters, a North Korean tramp steamer, the Chong Chon Gang, was intercepted in Panama last summer and discovered to have concealed in its hold surface-to-air missiles and other weaponry from Cuba. The movement of the nuclear-capable SA-2 SAMs through Caribbean waters demonstrates Pyongyang’s inherent capability to use such ship-borne weapons as launch vehicles for a potentially devastating electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on our electric grid.  

President Obama’s response to this and other North Korean provocations--including highly publicized propaganda about nuclear strikes on the United States? Crickets.

Even what might be promising developments in Ukraine and Venezuela in the form of popular revolts against violent repression by their respective, anti-Western regimes may be squandered due to America’s perceived impotence and trajectory of disengagement. This pattern will almost certainly encourage aggression by Russia in the former and by Cuba, China, Iran and narco-traffickers in the latter.

These are hardly the sorts of circumstances in which the United States should be signaling still further weakness by accelerating Team Obama’s dismantling of our military. Yet, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Monday that the Army would be reduced to its smallest size since before World War II. The Air Force would eliminate its ground-support A-10 “Warthog” jets and the Navy would tie up 11 cruisers prematurely.  And a host of cuts will reduce pay and benefits to active duty personnel and retirees.  

The cumulative effect of these and previous cuts will be to risk breaking the All-Volunteer Force and the only military we have. The absolutely predictable effect will be to make the world a more dangerous place for all of us.

This is a perfect opportunity for conservatives and the Republican Party to provide once again a Loyal Opposition to such hollowing out of our military and the Obama Doctrine it enables: Emboldening our enemies, undermining our allies, and diminishing our country.

To provide this needed alternative to President Obama’s provocative weakness, however, the Right is going to have to return to its Reaganesque roots: It must once again embrace and promote the philosophy the Gipper practiced as “peace through strength.” The American people and our country are entitled to at least one party that stands for and will provide a responsible national security policy.   

The place to start is by rebuilding our armed forces and their capacities, rather than going along with the further evisceration of the strength that dissuades, instead of inviting, aggression--and by holding accountable, at last, those responsible for the weakness that has, to date, done too much of the opposite.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. formerly acted as an Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan. He is President of the Center for Security Policy (www.SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for Breitbart News Network and host of the nationally syndicated program, Secure Freedom Radio. 


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