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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 01/10/2011

Which 2012 GOP contender will lead on national security?

By Jennifer Rubin

In the past, I've noted the possibility of a split in the conservative movement between Reagan-esque internationalists and neo-isolationists. That battle, I suspect, may manifest itself in the 2012 Republican contest.

Mitch Daniels has signaled his attitude toward national security: less is more. He has talked about re-examining our international commitments. Meanwhile, others like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc) have stressed that while the Pentagon could use some reform, the primary function of government is to keep us safe. There is no "peace dividend" when we are in the middle of a war.

It is interesting, therefore, that Mitt Romney's PAC sent out a press release over the weekend informing us:

"Governor Romney left Friday, January 7 for a one-week trip to Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. He has a series of high-level meetings scheduled, including with President Karzai of Afghanistan, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and King Abdullah II of Jordan."

Of all the presidential contenders, Romney perhaps has spoken out the most and with the most fluidity on the international challenges we face and the fallacy of the notion that America will inevitably "decline."

This isn't an easy time to defend defense spending and robust war operations. But the evidence is there that we penny-pinch on defense and underestimate our opponents at our own peril. Ironically, after trying to sell Obama's defense cuts on Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates the next day warned that we "underestimated elements of [China's] military modernization." So should we have cancelled the production of F-22s? After photographs appeared last week of what appeared to be China's first stealth bomber, The Washington Post reported:

"We've been watching these developments all along," Gates said, briefing reporters. "I've been concerned about the development of the anti-ship ballistic missile ever since I took this job" in 2007.

Gates intimated, however, that the U.S. government was surprised about the stealth fighter, called a J-20.

"We knew they were working on the stealth aircraft," he said. "What we've seen is that they maybe are somewhat further ahead in the development of that aircraft than our intelligence had earlier predicted."

So shouldn't GOP presidential candidates -- who want the job of commander in chief -- be pointing out that it is precisely because of the unexpected threats and the unplanned war that we should think twice before cutting defense spending too deeply? We will find out in the months ahead who is up for the job of leading on national defense issues and who plays to the "Fortress America" crowd.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 10, 2011; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  National Security  
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Next: On second thought, maybe it's not Palin's fault

Comments

Who says Obama is not a successful president? His objective always was and always will be to weaken America. He is succeeding in this quest, to the extent of what he can politically get away with. His father and mother would be very proud of him, considering how much they despised this nation. The Chinese cannot believe their good fortune. If they weren't such a dysfunctional, politically and socially depraved nation, I'd be more concerned. Watch the Taiwan Strait over the next two years; China is well aware of the two-year window of opportunity and of Obama's cravenness when it comes to defending democratic allies.

Posted by: johnnyramone | January 10, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Why is Rubin trying to scare everybody about China's strategic weapons potential? They spend about $85B per year on the military compared to the US's $800B.
If the US displays hostility toward China, they would probably stop lending us the money to pay for the overspending that we engage in for military purposes, which contributes to the deficit. We still spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Criticism of reduction in our huge expenditures as playing to the "Fortress America crowd", whoever that may be is just silly.

Posted by: eadler2 | January 10, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"After photographs appeared last week of what appeared to be China's first stealth bomber, The Washington Post reported:"

Small correction it's a fighter not a bomber. It's exepected to be deployed in 2018. The Russians have a stealth fighter that's already made a test flight. Deployment unknown.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 10, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

That is what Mitt says this week. Next week he may totally change his view and say we should pull out of Af.Pak. in what, if he were a Dem, would be called "flip-flopping". Who can trust him? Not me.

Posted by: coco7 | January 10, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Vote for Me: "Rex Reddy"
I’m younger that McCain. More Intelligent than Sara Palin. Less scary than Mit Romney. oh yah
I can read a Telepromter as well as Obama.

Posted by: rexreddy | January 10, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Gingrich-Skeletons in the closet
Palin-Bats in the belfry
Mit- Personality in the negative
McCain- Cobwebs in the cerebellum

Condi is blacker than Obama, but not black enough for liberals.

Posted by: rexreddy | January 10, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure if less, like Daniels wants implies worse but maybe more efficient. Of course that depends on how much he wants to cut.
Although if nobody believes we'll use any of our military it really doesn't matter how much we spend.

And if we only improved our diplomatic relationships with our FRIENDS we'd be in better shape.

Posted by: jay22 | January 10, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

We did not adjust our strategy went the Soviet Union collapsed. Instead we went haywire with NATO expansion, unjustified wars (Bostnia, Kosovo), abortive and costly interventions (Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan).

If we have an adequate Atlantic and Pacific navy and continental defense, we have little reason to be militarily involved in the Old World, and should be returning to George Washington's suspicion of foreign entanglements. If there are GOP figures who are beginning to think this way, all to the good.

Our manufacturing gutted by globalization, our culture under siege by unfettered immigration, our economy gutted by banksters and foolish wars, we need a new approach, rejecting the bipartisan interventionist consensus.

Posted by: GrumpyOldMan | January 10, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eadler2 | January 10, 2011 11:58 AM

“Why is Rubin trying to scare everybody about China's strategic weapons potential?”

The same reason that Rumsfeld and co scared everybody about the USSR's strategic weapons potential. Rubin and the necons have been is in the business of wars for decades. It's their raison d'etre.

That is why you won't bee seeing any posts from Rubin (or any other neocon) discussing Meir Dagan's press announcement this week that Iran won't have a nuke before 2015.

Posted by: AndreDeAngelis | January 10, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: rexreddy | January 10, 2011 1:17 PM

“Condi is blacker than Obama, but not black enough for liberals.”

But way to black for Republicans.

Posted by: AndreDeAngelis | January 10, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

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