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August 29, 2012

GOP Platform: Dropping the Ball on Foreign Policy
Posted by The Editors

Dropping ballThe following post is by DA contributors James Lamond and Bill French.

Since the GOP platform has been released, there has been lots of parsing of the various positions released, and with tonight’s speeches there should be a focus on the foreign policy and national security section. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post described the national security platform has high on criticism of President Obama but light on policy recommendations to address these challenges. Below are five national security issues that the platform attempts to offer a policy proposal, but fall flat.

Missile Defense

Claim:  “With unstable regimes in Iran and North Korea determined to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the United States…it is folly to abandon a missile shield for the country.”

Reality: These hyperbolic threat inflations ignore that “Iran has not stated an intent to develop ICBMS,” according to the most recent Ballistic Missile Defense Report, and North Korea’s Taeopdong-2 has recently failed its third test flight (the only missile in the country’s arsenal that possibly has the range to reach the westernmost point of the continental US). Not to mention the time-proven effectiveness of nuclear deterrence.

Moreover, the GOP’s platform on missile defense ignores that the most severe danger posed by ballistic missiles is conventionally armed short and intermediate ranged variants. Unlike their nuclear counterparts, SRBMs and IRBMs may actually be used, likely by targeting U.S. overseas bases and hindering military access to critical regions during crisis or wartime. Politically, however, it is understandable that the GOP avoids the issue of theater missile defense given that the Administration has moved aggressively to establish such systems in the Middle East and East Asia.


Claim:  “The current Administration’s cyber security policies have failed to curb malicious actions by our adversaries, and no wonder, for there is no active deterrence protocol. The current deterrence framework is overly reliant on the development of defensive capabilities and has been unsuccessful in dissuading cyber-related aggression.”

Reality: This point of view advocates a path towards cyber security already being pursued. The administration has been moving at a steady pace toward greater development of offensive cyber capabilities. The United States has stood up Cyber Command and has begun equipping regional Combatant Commanders with offensive cyber capabilities. Concerning deterrence, the Pentagon is moving towards adjusting the cyber rules of engagement to allow for rapid response to cyber intrusions while it is simultaneously investing in “Plan X” – a potentially groundbreaking development program intended to help the U.S. military achieve cyber dominance. Here, however, the political angle is puzzling: why oppose the Obama Administration on ‘cyber offense’ in the wake of two reported major cyber-attacks conducted by the United States – Flame and Stuxnet?


Claim 1: “if China were to violate those principles [of peacefully settling the dispute of Taiwan’s status], the U.S., in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself.”

Reality: the Taiwan Relations Act makes no such obligation regarding US defense of Taiwan in the face of Chinese aggression -- it obligates the US only to sell the Island defensive arms and makes no reference to American responsibilities in the event of a cross-Strait war whatsoever. Furthermore, it is grotesquely unclear why the GOP would risk destabilizing the security situation in the Taiwan Strait while relations between Beijing and Taipei under Ma Ying-Jeou’s Administration are enjoying perhaps unprecedented stability.

Claim 2: The GOP  “condemn[s]” Beijing’s “destabilizing claims in the South China Sea.”

Reality: The GOP platform takes sides in the complex and multi-layered maritime claims in the region. However, taking sides in this conflict would embroil the United States in the deeply nationalistic disputes with potentially disastrous results. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has been seeking to prevent these disputes from spilling into conflict, while strongly supporting our allies in the region. Moreover, unless Washington is to risk war over the South China Sea, the value of opposing Chinese claims is unclear, making assuming these risks without any apparent payoff.

Strategy and Climate Change

Claim: “The current Administration’s most recent National Security Strategy reflects the extreme elements in its liberal domestic coalition…. the strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression.”

Reality: Climate change and resulting national security threats, have long been recognized by military and intelligence experts as a serious national security threat – not part of a “liberal domestic collation.” This is why DoD, the CIA, and the service branches have all begun to plan around the anticipated challenges. In 2008, under the George W. Bush presidency, the National Intelligence Council released its Global Trends 2025, which an analysis from the intelligence community on projected and anticipated threats released every five years. The report argues that global warming was one of three major threats that could destabilize the international system, warning that climate refugees, resource wars, and an increase in destructive weather events could all undermine American and international security.  Additionally, the Center for Naval Analyses has released a number of reports from their Military Advisory Board of retired generals and admirals on the national security implications of climate change and energy insecurity. In their seminal report 2007 report the Military Advisory Board writes, “Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national security challenges for the United States. Accordingly, it is appropriate to start now to help mitigate the severity of some of these emergent challenges.”


Claim: The GOP will get more out of the U.S.-Russia relationship. On Russia the GOP platform makes the case that the United States and Russia have mutual interests. It states, “We do have common imperatives: ending terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation, promoting trade, and more.”

Reality: The party’s standard bearer, Mitt Romney, is creating a relationship with Russia that is adversarial, making it more difficult to work together to address mutual interests – the very point of the “reset.” Romney has been roundly criticized for calling Russia America’s “number one geopolitical foe” by national security experts including Colin Powell. However, his advisors doubled down on this view just yesterday. Sergey Kulik, director of the Institute of Contemporary Development, has an interesting perspective from Russia and how this can play out with U.S.-Russian relations. He writes:

“Any anti-Russia rhetoric coming from such an authoritative platform as the conventions could be actively used to further elevate anti-American rhetoric in the Russian media. Although the anti-American tone has somewhat abated recently, the United States has been a target of criticism by those seeking to justify a more hardline political course for Russia both domestically and externally…

In addition, work is under way on a revised Foreign Policy Concept of Russia, and the final document will be adjusted following the conclusion of the U.S. presidential campaign. If Russia is touched upon at either of the conventions in a negative or positive light, this could be reflected in the document. This concerns positions not only directly related to the United States, but also other foreign policy areas and priorities.”


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