4 Republican Myths about Defense

With the United States at war since 2001, Americans realize that foreign policy and defense issues now have a direct impact on them – and they think Democrats are handling the issues better than Republicans.

In a survey conducted ten days ago by Republican pollster Whit Ayes for the group Resurgent Republic, a plurality of people, 39 %, think America is safer from terrorists under Obama than it was in January 2009 when he became president — while only 20% think America is less safe.

Similarly, In an NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll, conducted Aug. 16 to Aug. 20, 54% approved of Obama’s handling of foreign policy.

While Americans expect convention rhetoric to be long on excitement and exaggeration and short on truth and accuracy, they also expect serious and thoughtful answers post-convention to those issues important to them. Let’s examine a few of the issues Governor Romney and Representative Ryan have been discussing post-convention:

1. Cuts to the Defense Budget: In Jacksonville, Florida, Romney told the crowd “He wants to cut a trillion dollars out of our military budget …The world is not a safer place right now, not with Iran trying to become nuclear … If I’m president and Paul Ryan’s vice president, we will not cut our military budget.” Except that’s not true. While Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, continues to campaign against these pending defense cuts, the truth is that last summer he voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011 – which includes the defense sequester Romney claims is Obama’s. And even if the sequestration budget cuts occur, it only reduces the defense budget (over 10 years), back to 2006 level – which was the highest defense budget on record until: 2007…2008…

2. Iran & Israel: The most daunting foreign policy challenge of the next four years will be dealing with Iran’s developing of nuclear weapons. But contrary to Romney’s insinuations of last week, Iran didn’t suddenly start developing nuclear weapons while Obama was president, but stretches back at least 15 years. And sanctions have long been an integral part of Israel’s Iranian strategy; in 2007, when Romney’s friend Bibi Netanyahu was leader of the Israeli government opposition, he met with then-Vice President Dick Cheney and argued that the only thing with “sufficient punch” to stop Iran from developing a weapon was crippling sanctions, including measures against the energy sector, “coupled with a clear and present credible military option…” Unlike the Bush Administration, Obama organized a boycott of Iranian oil exports that’s being honored worldwide, and he’s often reminded Iran that military options remain ‘on the table.” The problem is that the effectiveness of a unilateral attack remains so dubious that on Thursday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated America’s position that an Israeli attack would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program.” Worth noting is that even Israel’s inner circle do not agree on the effectiveness of a unilateral strike, despite a consensus that Iran’s program may soon be beyond the reach of Israel’s military capability. Claiming Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus” is incorrect and irresponsible.

3. Russia & Putin:  Most Americans would be surprised to discover how much in the past few years Putin has quietly helped the United States and Israel. While Russia’s support of Assad’s despicable regime has caused thousands of civilian deaths, before Romney “talks tough” to Putin, he needs to remember that Russia supports U.S.-UN-western sanctions against Iran (which helps Israel). Russia is also one of our largest crude oil suppliers. And they opened up their rail system for the U.S.-NATO to ship material in out of Afghanistan, making them far better allies than nuclear and fundamentalist Pakistan.

4. Afghanistan: Let me express my dismay when, in his acceptance speech, Romney chose to ignore the 78,000 +/- Marines and soldiers today fighting in Afghanistan. I’m not impartial here; I’ve got one son, active duty, who shipped out on five deployments in eight years in contrast to Romney’s five sons who have shipped out on none, and I’m appalled at his disinterest. With Americans at the mall, only 0.5% of the population is in the military, yet doing 100% of America’s heavy lifting. Does he know that our Marines in the Helmand Province are walking-out on 7,000 patrols weekly? Even with the summer temperatures often exceeding 135’ they’re out training the Afghan forces and working with village councils; it’s the 20-year old Marine who demonstrates American values in his every day interactions with children, schoolteachers and shopkeepers. What a missed opportunity to not mention their efforts.

They’re a unique breed; these young men and women who volunteer to go into harms’ way. One doubts Romney knows that in the midst of the carnage of 2005-2006 Ramadi, enlistments in the Marine Corps skyrocketed. These young men and women don’t judge success by income levels, job titles, or M & A deals consummated; instead they judge success if they’ve been able to drag a wounded buddy out of the road while under fire, or opened a girls school in Marjah. You can spot them by the way they look you in the eye and the way they carry themselves; their idea shared sacrifice and stress is far different than the fee-splitting or reduced bonuses that Wall Street finds so onerous.

It’s the valor, determination, and courage demonstrated by our Marines – Soldiers – Sailors – Airmen – Coasties at Belleau Wood – Iwo Jima – Hue City – An-Nasiriyah that the Iranians or others quietly fear; not shallow convention rhetoric. The backbone and sinew of an effective foreign policy and America’s military muscle are these incredible young men and women and they deserve to be recognized.

This post originally appeared on the Truman National Security Project's Truman Doctrine blog