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The Debates and Defense: The C-in-C Question

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Even the New York Times has now figured out there is a reason to support defense spending: It powers technological innovation across the entire economy. That’s not the primary or even secondary reason we spend on billions on defense, but it certainly adds another couple of paragraphs to the already long indictment of Barack Obama’s stewardship of the nation’s national security. Not only does his radical plan for downsizing the American military endanger the country, it also cripples technological innovation as a bonus benefit for those in the world hoping to see American power shrink.

The radical president’s radical plans for the Pentagon should be at the center of the GOP presidential debates tonight and tomorrow, but with MSM at the controls, they will probably spend far too little time on the most important questions of all: How to protect the United States and the qualifications of the men on the stage to be Commander-in-Chief.

I asked callers yesterday two questions: Who would you like to be the GOP’s nominee if Iran starts a hot war in the Middle East before the election? I also asked who they would want to be the Commander-in-Chief if such a war erupts in 2013 and not between now and November 2012?

It is possible to answer the questions with different names. The first focuses on a candidate’s ability to adopt to a rapidly changing political environment driven by a crisis in which President Obama will be at the center of events.

The second question wonders aloud who is best equipped actually to lead a major war effort to victory.

On the second question at least, each of the four plausible GOP nominees has a claim. Perry fans will cite his toughness, and Newt’s legions his ability to inspire and cajole. Romney supporters will note that a war is the greatest executive challenge of the presidency, from picking senior leadership from among the general officers available to the marshaling of international allies and economic capacities. The growing ranks of Santorum backers will note that the senator has spent years and years studying Iran and knows the issue and the mullah’s fanaticism and governing structures better than the other three.

It is an important discussion to have, by far the most important because while a president doesn’t make major changes to domestic policy without the Congress in support, he most certainly acts alone on the questions of response to war and aggression. If Iran starts a war, by design or accident, whether by direct aggression aimed at the United States or via an attack on Israel, it will be on the president to almost instantly decide how to respond. Which of the GOP would-be nominees would you select to be in the chair when that crisis erupts?

Callers and guests debated the issue for hours yesterday and there is no way to judge if any listeners changed their minds as the various arguments were made, but framing the question that way significantly changed the debate that has been raging about the race for the past month.

The Commander-in-Chief question is the key question, and the president’s assault on the Pentagon’s budget this week provides the starting point for the debates tonight and tomorrow, because whoever is the president, he will have to go into a new war with the military the country has, and Barack Obama announced this week that on his watch, that military will significantly shrink in size and capacity over the next many years, and indeed has already begun to do so.

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