11/22/2021 0 Comments
By: Terry Benham
The world is safer when America is strong. Throughout our lifetime, the world has looked to America first. Perhaps it wasn’t always that way but as far back as 1630, John Winthrop declared in a sermon that America would become a shining “city on a hill,” representing the hope and aspirations of all free men and women. Ronald Reagan later revived that phrase, rallying Conservatives across the country around a belief in American exceptionalism and a hope that we would remain a nation which is “sought out by those possessed by an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.”
Strength and courage are in our DNA. First exemplified by our Founding Fathers, these attributes assert and preserve our exceptional stance in the world. From the beginning, we’ve been a refuge and a beacon of hope to those who seek freedom from oppression and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Whether in our home defense or through our international liberation of the oppressed, the men and women of the United States Armed Forces have always been the strength of the American idea. It’s through them and strong national defense policies, that we remained exceptional and a pillar of strength for our allies and those seeking hope of a better tomorrow.
The Republican Party has always stood for a strong national defense. The platform states, “Our self-evident rights must always continue to be secured at the individual, state, national, and international levels.” Sounds nice, but what does that actually mean as it relates to the idea of American exceptionalism? It’s worth noting how the statement is structured. It begins at the most basic level… the individual. So for many conservatives, a strong national defense means a commitment by the individual to serve - to serve the state, to serve the country, and to serve the world.
As a nation, we have faced many threats and adversaries together. What was once bandits and piracy evolved to the British crown, the Axis powers, and the Cold War. Those conflicts have evolved today in the form of Islamic fundamentalism, cyber criminals, and opportunistic nation states. These threats may be remarkably different and the problems more complex - but the requirement from America is the same. We must be the strong, stable symbol of hope in the face of adversity. We must remember the core mission for the Department of Defense - to (first) deter war and to protect the security of the United States.
The truth is, our adversaries are working hard to divide and conquer us. They work tirelessly to weaken our resolve while simultaneously destabilizing the world around us. The notion that we should only worry about our own borders is nonsensical. The forward defense doctrine has proven effective at both deterring war and protecting the security of our national interests. Although costly, U.S. military presence within the borders of those nations who sponsor or harbor our adversaries can often lead to a stability that protects both American security and entire regions. It is undeniable that when America projects strength, we provide stability to the world.
The Biden Administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan had the opposite effect. In generous terms, it was an abysmal failure. While many would agree that a withdrawal of troops from the Middle East was necessary and eventual, the incompetent execution of the withdrawal process combined with a lack of a coherent communication strategy was a complete disaster. We isolated our departure point, a blunder that will be studied for decades. We lost 13 American service members to poor perimeter security measures. We broke our promise to the Afghani people to protect them from the groups that had terrorized their lives. Progress made in taking back territory from these oppressive groups has all but reverted to normal. Twenty years erased. It showed the United States to be weak, unresolved, and untrustworthy, and it further emboldened our adversaries.
In addition to that mess that still isn’t over, we have additional challenges. China, both economically and militarily, is a threat to global stability. Their economic influence is undeniable, however, it’s their investment in military spending, naval warships, and biological and nuclear capabilities that is the most alarming. The perception of American weakness has emboldened them to explore gray zone warfare tactics against U.S. allies such as Taiwan. Also emboldened by the perception of weakness, Russia has now deployed 100,000 soldiers on the border with Ukraine in a game of chicken with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations. Make no mistake, it’s a dangerous time across the globe.
We must refocus our efforts on building a strong military focused on the core mission of war fighters - deter war and protect the security of the United States. We must continue to fully fund our military needs with the understanding that we can’t just spend more… we have to spend smart. We must pull the plug on outdated projects and refocus on research and development for fighting the next war and protecting some of our exposed vulnerabilities.
We must aggressively streamline the bureaucracy within the Department of Defense and get refocused to the core mission as stated. This includes minimizing mission distractions. The men and women of the Armed Forces are tasked with being a lethal deterrent to our enemies. It’s their individual sacrifices that make them, their unit, and our military the most lethal in the history of the world. Let’s stick to that and leave social experiments to our civilian society.
American exceptionalism begins with the power of the individual. It’s a willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others in our community, in our country, and in our world. American strength comes from those exceptional individuals dedicated to a military powerful enough to deter war and protect the security of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Our exceptionalism and our strength are under attack by both external and internal influences. If we are to remain a beacon of hope, stability, and security then we must stop playing politics with our national defense and distracting from the core mission of war fighters. Otherwise, our own security may be in jeopardy.
Terry Benham is a veteran of the United States Army and a partner at Impact Management Group in Little Rock.