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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Congressman Mike Gallagher on the Syria Strike and the Military Budget

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the Audio:

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The Transcript:

HH: Joining me now on the Hugh Hewitt Show to discuss that statement by Ambassador John Bolton yesterday is Congressman Mike Gallagher from Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District. Congressman Gallagher is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served seven years on active duty. He’s a graduate of Princeton University, got his PhD and his Masters in international and national security studies from Georgetown. He’s on the Armed Services Committee, the Homeland Security Committee, and I think he’s going to take Mike Pompeo’s place as my weekly chat, or every other week with a House member. Even though he is a freshman, he’s on the right committees on sea power. Mike Gallagher, welcome. I read your statement on Syria. I wanted to get your reaction to the Syria intervention and let the people know as a combat veteran of the region, what do you think of what President Trump ordered last week?

MG: Well, first of all, thanks, Hugh, for having me. I’d be honored to take the vaunted Pompeo seat, so put me in Triple A for a little bit and see how I do. Listen, I left Western Iraq after my second deployment in 2008. I was part of the surge. And I saw it work firsthand. And no matter where you stood on the decision to invade in the first place, the fact that we were able to turn it around and bring order from relative chaos was a remarkable expression of U.S. power. And so to see us flush all those gains down the drain was incredibly disheartening. I was also the Middle East guy on the Foreign Relations in 2013 when Obama came to the Committee and asked for the authority to strike in Syria and then backed away from it. And besides, perhaps, the decision to get out of Iraq in the first place, the decision to back away from that red line, I believe, was more damaging to our national security than anything else over the last ten years. I mean, just look at the effects not only in the Middle East, but I think we sent a signal of weakness and irresoluteness that resonated in Eastern Europe, and the South and East China Seas. It resonated around the world and really undermined our diplomacy in Iran. And I think the price of the chemical weapons deal was turning Syria into a sphere of influence for Russia and Iran. And the Iran deal has only made that worse across the region.

HH: Now obviously, John Bolton puts an enormous amount of emphasis on the signal this sends to places other than the Assad palace complex. Do you agree with him? And by the way, Representative Gallagher’s Twitter handle is @RepGallagher. Even my Steelers fan friends are going to get this, @RepGallagher. So go and follow him there. What do you think? Did Ambassador Bolton state it correctly?

MG: Absolutely. I mean, so the immediate signal it sends to Assad is don’t use chemical weapons. And if you do, you can expect to be met with more Tomahawk missiles. I think it sends a signal to the Russians that their support for their client state in Syria is tenuous at best, and we’ll oppose it, and we also don’t share their vision for the broader Middle East. And I think it sends a signal around the world that America will back up its red lines, that we aren’t all talk and no action, that we will hopefully speak softly, but we will carry a big stick and back up our commitments and back up our allies around the world.

HH: Now I want to talk to you about your sea power. The Carl Vinson is going off to the Korean coast. And that’s good. That’s important. That’s a signal, and it’s there for everything we talk about. But the budget that Director Mulvaney sent up, Mike Gallagher, doesn’t add one ship, not one ship. What do you make of this?

MG: I think it’s a huge problem. Listen, the President, I was glad throughout the campaign, restated his commitment to building a 355 ship Navy. That’s the number that the Navy says, not just that it wants, that it needs. That’s actually the minimum that we need in order to satisfy the ongoing requirements of our war fighters around the world. And the budget that I’ve seen so far does not get us there. It’s woefully insufficient. In fact, at the broadest level, it’s only a 3% increase over Obama. The other thing I would just draw your attention to, the Congress is in recess for two weeks right now. We’re taking an unearned two week vacation. And when we get back, there will be just three legislative days until the CR expires, and we’ll have to fund the government. And Chairman Thornberry, to his credit, organized the committee hearing on Armed Services last week about the effects of another continuing resolution to the military. The head of the Navy said ships scheduled to deploy to Europe and the Middle East will have to stay home. Our pilots won’t fly, their jets will sit on the ramp needing maintenance, and we’ll lose skilled sailors, because we can’t fund their bonuses. The Army set a yearlong CR on a return to BCA funding, risk deploying forces overseas that are not ready for combat. So in other words, we’re sending young men and women into combat that aren’t ready, and we aren’t doing our job in Congress, and I think that’s unacceptable.

HH: Congressman Gallagher, great to have you on in the Pompeo slot. Press on. Have a great time back in the district, and thank you for joining me this morning.

End of interview.

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