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GOP’s 2016 hopefuls can stand out by standing up for a strong defense

Sunday, March 2, 2014  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

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“The lamps are going out all over Europe,” Lord Edward Grey, then British foreign minister, remarked 100 years ago this August as Europe hurtled toward what would become a giant conflagration. “We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Vladimir Putin‘s swallowing of the Crimea and who knows what other parts of Ukraine is nothing like the nightmare of a century ago, except of course for the people who had been enjoying their freedom from the Soviet boot for the past two decades. The boot is back.

The people of Cuba have never known anything but the boot during the same period, and the people of Venezuela only have become accustomed to it in recent years. But it isn’t any different in South America, or the Middle East or Eurasia. It is simple loss of liberty and subjugation to despotic whim.

Free people should sickened by it, and not just the body count, but the quiet muffled suffocations as well. The disappearances. The dispossessions. The diaspora cut off.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a child of such dispossessed people, react quickly and firmly Saturday, unlike the combined forces of President Obama‘s “leadership” team. Rubio quickly laid out eight steps to be taken in response to Putin’s gangsterism. The president had taken none of them at this writing even as more planeloads of Russian troops land on Ukraine soil to take control of Ukrainian lives and property.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also a child of exiles from totalitarianism, did not list eight steps, but did take aim at Russia’s membership in the Group of Eight, rightly concluding that a rapacious, serial stealer of other country’s land and people should not be welcomed to sup with the civilized world’s powers.

Anyone aspiring to lead the GOP in 2016 against the lady of the reset button, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should be sounding exactly this call and agreeing on this very thing. This week marks the fifth anniversary of Clinton’s bizarre gifting of the famous “reset button” to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. There hasn’t been a run of five years as bad as those just completed since 1975-1980, and three more years of this befuddled team spells the worst stretch for America in modern times. Given Obama’s fecklessness, who is sleeping well in Taipei, Tel Aviv or Tallinn tonight? The whole world, especially its worst actors, know the president is an annotated and open book of empty threats and meaningless gestures.

Now he is seeking a defense budget to match the hollowed-out poses.

And here is where Rubio, Cruz and the rest of Republicans with national ambitions will have to lead beyond their words this weekend. It is not the time to cut the defense budget, slash our naval strength, shrink our Army. It isn’t the time to trend towards 2 percent of GDP as a measure of defense preparedness as opposed to the 4 percent which is a baseline for seriousness.

The Republican who begins the rebuilding now — or at least urges it — will win for himself or herself a justified respect long in advance of next year’s more formal beginning to the campaign to rebuild and repair America’s standing in the world. Rubio and Cruz got off to a strong head start this weekend, even as the president and many Republicans held back in their neo-isolationist “There is nothing we can do” pose. Good for them. Now watch to see who keeps it up.

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