Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives unveiled with much fanfare their “Pledge to America.” It is intended by the GOP leadership to serve as both a campaign platform for winning a new majority and as a program for governing should they succeed.
The document transparently is designed to appeal to those Republicans, Tea Party activists, independents and conservative Democrats who are rallying to the defense of the U.S. Constitution at a moment when it is under assault, in the words of the congressional oath of office “from enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Just as the framers saw the need for the immediate amendment of the original Constitution with the Bill of Rights, however, the Pledge to America cries out for a strengthened national security plank. Call it a “Bill of National Security Rights” or, better yet, “the Peace Through Strength Pledge.”
As it stands, the House GOP’s Pledge treats the Constitution’s obligation to “provide common defense” as a kind of afterthought. Just 758 words – a little under two pages of the forty-five in its glossy blueprint for “a governing agenda” – are devoted to mostly hortatory statements about demanding policies, “getting all hands on deck” and passing “clean” troop-funding legislation.
The “Plan for National and Border Security” reads like focus group-tested themes embraced as a sort of issue box-checking exercise. What the times require, though, must be a key element of a defining – and differentiating – platform for a would-be governing party.
There are considerably more pictures in the Pledge booklet than there are substantive commitments on why we need a different approach to national security than has been the practice under Democratic control, and to what end.
A modest suggestion would be to flesh out the Pledge to America with a real national security platform – one that has the advantage of addressing more comprehensively and more definitively the choices facing the country in this critical election.
To this end, leaders of six preeminent national security-minded public policy institutions – including the Heritage Foundation, the Claremont Institute, the Foundation for Defense of Democracy and my own Center for Security Policy – came together earlier this year to define such an agenda. As it is rooted in the tradition and vision of Ronald Reagan, we call it the Peace through Strength Platform.
This 10-item Bill of National Security Rights includes the following commitments:
- A robust defense posture including: A safe, reliable effective nuclear deterrent, which requires its modernization and testing; the deployment of comprehensive defenses against missile attack; and national protection against unconventional forms of warfare – including biological, electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) and cyber attacks.
- Preservation of U.S. sovereignty against international treaties, judicial rulings and other measures that would have the effect of supplanting or otherwise diminishing the U.S. Constitution and the representative, accountable form of government it guarantees.
- A nation free of Shariah, the brutally repressive and anti-Constitutional totalitarian program that governs in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Islamic states and that terrorists are fighting to impose worldwide.
- Protection from unlawful enemy combatants. Enemies who refuse to wear uniforms, use civilians as shields and employ terrorism as weapons are not entitled to U.S. constitutional rights or trials in our civilian courts. Those captured overseas should be incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, which should remain open, or in other prisons outside the United States.
- Energy security, realized by exploiting to the fullest the natural resources and technologies available in this country. We Americans must reduce our dependence for energy upon – and transfers of national wealth to – enemies of this country.
- Borders secure against penetration by terrorists, narco-traffickers or others seeking to enter the United States illegally. Aliens who have violated immigration laws should not be rewarded with the privileges of citizenship.
- High standards that protect the military culture essential to the All-Volunteer Force. The Pentagon should implement sound priorities, policies and laws that strengthen recruiting, retention, and readiness.
- A foreign policy that supports our allies and opposes our adversaries. It should be clearly preferable to be a friend of the United States, not its enemy.
- Judicial and educational institutions that uphold the constitutional responsibility of elected officials to make policy for our military and convey to future generations accurate portrayals of American history, including the necessity of defending freedom.
Some of these points are touched on in the Pledge to America; others are not. But taken together, an amended and augmented Pledge would provide a far more firm basis for appealing to the American electorate. It would also ensure that those elected this Fall have a mandate for leadership in this most important of portfolios, one that promises to stand the country in far better stead during the difficult months and years ahead. One that would be worthy of broad-based political support – and likely to secure it.
To paraphrase President Reagan, if not we, who will offer the leadership necessary truly to meet the constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense? And, if not now, when?