by T.T. Robinson
“When I’m Commander in Chief” was mentioned more than a few times in Thursday’s debate among the four remaining Republican presidential hopefuls.
But what would an administration of any one of those men really mean for the Armed Forces?
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and businessman Donald Trump squared off in Michigan to discuss immigration, economy, gun control, the environment, religious liberties and one of the most important issues not just to military families, but all Americans: foreign policy.
Somewhere in the midst of name calling (Trump called Cruz “Lying Ted,” Rubio “Little Marco;” Rubio and Cruz both painted a picture of Trump as a con artist, while Kasich stayed above the fray, stating that “people say everywhere I go, ‘you seem to be the adult on the stage’”), we got a glimpse of each candidate’s plans for our military, and equally important, a better look at their temperaments.
Where do the Republican candidates stand?
All agree the military needs to be rebuilt. Plans for our troops drew applause and criticism, as the promises flew almost as fast as the political punches.
Here’s a look at the GOP final four’s foreign policy promises:
Sound bytes from the March 3 debate:
As president, I will do the exact same thing (as Reagan) with radical Islamic terrorism. We will rebuild this military so that it remains the mightiest fighting force on the face of the planet. And then, when I am commander in chief, every militant on the face of the Earth will understand that if they go and join ISIS, if they wage jihad against the United States of America, they are signing their death warrant.
As part of his closing statement, Cruz said, “I want to talk to every soldier and sailor and airman and Marine. I want to talk to every mom and dad and sister and brother and son and daughter of someone fighting for this country. For seven years, you’ve had a commander in chief that doesn’t believe in you, that sends you into combat with rules of engagement that tie your arms behind your back. That is wrong. It is immoral. And in January 2017, it will end.”
Good sound bytes, but how does Cruz plan to do that?
With a dramatic rebuilding of every facet of the military. More soldiers, more ships, more everything.
How does he plan to pay for that?
Three ways: accelerating economic growth (tax and regulatory reform), cutting spending, and selling federal assets.
Visit his website to learn more about his policies, including the promise that he “will not simply bow down to political correctness. I will also review the Marine Corps’ request for exemption from the policy of requiring women to serve in combat positions.”
When asked if Trump was naïve about the threat Vladimir Putin represents, Governor Kasich replied “I’m not biting.”
He then took us on what he called a “semi-trip around the world” to discuss how he’d address everything from hackers in China (“We’re going to beef up our cyber command”) to handling Russia:
“We need to tell them we’re going to arm the Ukrainians with defensive lethal weapons, and we’re going to tell Putin, ‘if you attack anybody in eastern Europe in NATO, you attack Finland and Sweden which is not in NATO, consider it an attack on us. And he will understand that.’”
When Kasich was asked if he would put ground troops in Libya, he replied,
You’ve got to be on the ground and in the air both in Syria and Iraq, and at some point we will have to deal with Libya. I am very concerned about ISIS getting their hands on the oil fields of Libya and being able to fund their operations. The fact is, cool, calm, deliberate, effective, take care of the job and then come home. That’s what we need to do with our military foreign policy.
What is Kasich’s military policy?
He has a robust proposal, a deep bench on his National Security Advisory Group and what he calls “a realistic plan to revive the economy.” A solid economic strategy is critical in addressing America’s $18 trillion debt and $463 billion deficit, especially as Kasich is calling for “$102 billion in increased defense spending over the next eight years to improve our conventional capabilities and create new cyber defense resources to better safeguard our security.”
Visit his website to read more in depth about his plan to renew our military, renew our alliances, and recommit ourselves to our fundamental values.
Sound bytes from the March 3 debate:
“Despite the hardships of the moment, I honestly believe that today’s millennials have the chance to be the greatest generation we’ve had in a hundred years. I really do. Because the world today has hundreds of millions of people that can afford to be their client, their customers, their partners, people they collaborate with. But that won’t happen if the world is dangerous and it’s unstable. And that will require strong American leadership.”
In addition to leadership, Rubio proposes intervention in Libya. “What I’ve argued from the very beginning is ISIS – in order to defeat ISIS, you must deny them operating spaces. This is how ISIS or any radical group, for that matter, can grow. It’s how Al Qaida was able to carry out 9/11, is that the Taliban gave them an operating space in Afghanistan.”
Rubio wants a ground force made up primarily of Sunni Arabs to defeat ISIS, with help from American special ops and increased air strikes.
What else would a Rubio administration mean for the military? Quite a bit.
Rubio’s plan to rebuild and modernize is both broadly strategic and finite in detail. From the sweeping theme of strengthening our capabilities, to the specificity of which aircraft he’ll replace in order to modernize the Air Force, Rubio has perhaps the most comprehensive plan, which you can read in full on his website.
Not as detailed is his proposal to pay for it, although he does touch on entitlements reform.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the military not following orders Trump may give as president, specifically surrounding enhanced interrogation methods and killing of terrorists’ families (in violation of the Geneva Convention).
In lieu of a few sound bytes, we think you need the exact line of questioning (transcription provided by Washington Post) to see what a Trump administration could entail. It strangely paralleled Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) in “A Few Good Men,” when questioned about ordering the Code Red:
(Moderator) BAIER: So what would you do, as commander in chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?
TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.
BAIER: But they’re illegal.
TRUMP: This really started with Ted, a question was asked of Ted last – two debates ago about waterboarding. And Ted was, you know, having a hard time with that question, to be totally honest with you. They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it’s fine. And if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too, because, frankly…that’s the way I feel. Can you imagine – can you imagine these people, these animals over in the Middle East, that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That’s my opinion.
BAIER: but targeting terrorists families?
TRUMP: And –and – and – I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.
While Trump’s website has a detailed plan on what he’ll do to reform Veterans Affairs and his proposals for treating “the whole veteran,” he does not have a proposal for what he’ll do for the military, beyond
“I’m going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody, absolutely nobody is going to mess with us. We’re going to take care of our vets and we’re going to get rid of ISIS. We’re going to get rid of them fast.”
Whether you watched the debate or are just catching the highlight reel, the intensity of the Republican race is picking up speed.
The big question: will the train completely derail before the GOP national convention in July? Weigh in, in the comments.