Speaking for the first time on the floor of the U.S. Senate, freshmen Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) made a strong and emotional case for increasing defense spending in light of the growing world threats caused by President Obama’s foreign policy “retreats.”
Cotton started by echoing the words of Winston Churchill, saying “I speak today for the first time from the Senate floor with a simple message. The world is growing ever more dangerous and our defense spending is wholly inadequate to confront the danger. To be exact, during the last four or five years, the world has grown gravely darker. We have steadily disarmed, partly with the sincere desire to give a lead to other countries and partly through the severe financial pressure of the time. But a change must now be made. We must not continue longer on a course in which we alone are growing weaker while every other nation is growing stronger. I wish I could take credit for those eloquent and ominous words, but I cannot. Winston Churchill sounded that warning in 1933 as Adolf Hitler had taken power in Germany. Tragically, Great Britain and the West didn’t heed this warning when they might have strangled that monster in his crib. Rather, they let the locusts continue to eat away at the common defense.”
Cotton placed the blame squarely on President Barack Obama.
“The United States is again engaged in something of a grand experiment of the kind we saw in the 1930s,” Cotton said. “As then, military strength is seen in many quarters as the cause of military adventurism. Strength and confidence in the defense of our interests, alliances and liberty does not seem to deter aggression, but to provoke it. Rather than confront our adversaries, our president apologizes for our supposed transgressions. The administration is harsh and unyielding to our friends, soothing and supplicating to our enemies. The president minimizes the threats we confront in the face of territory siezed, weapons of mass destruction used and proliferated, and innocence murdered. The concrete expression of this experiment is our collapsing defense budget. For years we have systematically underfunded our military, marrying this philosophy of retreat with a misplaced understanding of our larger budgetary burdens. We have strained our fighting forces today to the breaking point, even as we have eaten away at our investments in our future forces. Creating our own locust years, as Churchill would have put it.”
He criticized Obama for downplaying the threats.
“During his last campaign, the president was fond of saying al Qaeda was on the run. In a fashion, I suppose this was true. Al Qaeda was and is running wild around the world, now in control of more territory than ever before. This global network of Islamic jihadists continue to plot attacks against America and the West. They sow seeds of conflict and failed states and maintain affiliates throughout Africa, the greater Middle East and south Asia.”
Cotton also warned about gutting the U.S. military.
“Mr. President, make no mistake, our military capabilities have declined. In recent years, we have dramatically underfunded our military to the detriment of our security. To fully understand the military aspect of our experiment with retreat, some historical perspective is needed here. Defense spending reached its peak in 2008, when the base budget and wartime spending combined were $760 billion. Incredibly, the total defense budget has plummeted by $200 billion in the last year. Today, defense spending is only 16% of all the federal spending, an historic low rivaled only by the post-Cold War period. To give some context, during the Cold War, defense spending regularly accounted for 60% of federal spending, but if we don’t end the experiment with retreat, this president will leave office with a mere 12% of all federal dollars spent on defense.”
He added war is not the only alternative
“Islamic terrorists will continue to rampage throughout Syria and Iraq, inspiring more attacks upon Europe and American soil. Emboldened by their own battlefield successes, they will continue to attract thousands of hateful fighters from around the world, all eager for the chance to kill Americans. All these are nightmare scenarios, but sadly, not unrealistic ones. The alternative, however, is not war. No leader, whether a president, a general or a platoon leader, wishes to put his troops in harm’s way. War is an awful thing, and it takes an unimaginable toll on the men and women who fight it and their families. But the best way to avoid war is to be willing and prepared to fight a war in the first place. That’s the alternative. Military strength and moral confidence in the defense of America’s national security. Our enemies and allies alike must know that aggressors will pay an unspeakable price for challenging the United States. The best way to impose that price is global military dominance.”
Cotton concluded with Churchill’s “regretful words from 1936. The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. Churchill later called World War II the unnecessary war because it could have been stopped so easily with western strength and confidence in the 1930s. I know many of you in this chamber stand with me and I humbly urge you all, Democrat and Republican alike, to join in rebuilding our common defense so that we will not face our own unnecessary war. Our own period of consequences.
He ended by saying, “I will now I yield the floor, but I will never yield in the defense of America’s national security on any front, or at any time.”