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Heritage Experts' Roundup of the Final Presidential Debate

Posted By Amy Payne On October 22, 2012 @ 9:41 pm In Featured | Comments Disabled

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“Sequestration Will Not Happen!”

Apparently the President thinks that sequestration is solved. The huge crippling cuts that will trigger on January 2, 2013, are still on the board, but during the final presidential debate, the President declared dismissively that “Sequestration will not happen.” Before anyone starts cheering, the President’s staff started walking back the point. They said they all thought it “would be” solved, but not that it would not happen.

Regardless, there has been precious little done by the Senate (particularly the Majority Leader) and the White House (the President has said he would veto any solution that did not include large tax hikes). Sequestration cuts are still scheduled to hit, and when they do, the effects will be “a disaster,” in the words of the Administration’s own Secretary of Defense.

Some legislators are trying to stop [2] these ill-advised and damaging cuts.

– Steve Bucci

Last Presidential Debate Focuses Heavily on Middle East

President Obama and Governor Romney lobbed critical comments at each other’s Middle East policies without engaging in many extended exchanges that illuminated the important differences between them. Both agreed that the Middle East was changing quickly, but said little about the new face of terrorism. Governor Romney charged that events in Libya, Syria, and Egypt demonstrated that the Obama Administration’s policies were unraveling and leaving the region without adequate American leadership. President Obama defended his policies but spent more time attacking Romney’s policies, which he criticized as being “all over the map.”

On Syria [3], Obama stressed his role in organizing the international community, while Romney prescribed working more closely with the Syrian opposition to unify its leadership and give them a better chance of bringing down the Assad regime. Romney criticized the Administration’s embrace of the stillborn Annan peace plan and its outsourcing of its Syria policy to the United Nations, where Russia has used its veto power to prevent effective action.

Obama repeatedly plugged the killing of Osama bin Laden and ending the war in Iraq. But he said little about how al-Qaeda has regrouped and grown stronger since those events. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, particularly special operations forces, greatly reduced the pressure on al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and has allowed it to make a comeback. In July, AQI felt strong enough to publicly threaten [4] an attack on the U.S. homeland.

The al-Qaeda franchise in Yemen [5] also has launched several failed attacks on the homeland. Al-Qaeda also has seized large swaths of northern Mali [6] using some of the weapons that it and its allies seized from Libya after the fall of Qadhafi. And the September 11 Benghazi terrorist attack [7], which was perpetrated by al-Qaeda sympathizers, underscored the continuing appeal of al-Qaeda’s extremist ideology.

Although Osama bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda clearly is very much alive.

See A Counterterrorism Strategy for the “Next Wave” [8]

– James Phillips

Obama’s Belated Support for Iran‘s Green Revolution

President Obama stated his support for the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran tonight. That is three years late and a dollar short. Just as he revised his record on the Benghazi attack, calling it terrorism four weeks after the fact, President Obama has now changed his position on Iran. One of the reasons we still have the Mullahs in power in Tehran today is that the United States failed to support a promising, fledgling political uprising against the autocratic regime of Iran.

Back then, the President thought Iran’s political situation was something best left for Iranians and their government [9] to decide: “The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion. . . . And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.”

And bear witness we have, to tragedy in Iran and a revolution crushed—and that is not enough. This country has to stand for what is right and for what will make a safer world.

– Helle C. Dale

Cutting the Defense Budget

During tonight’s debate, President Obama asserted that his budget proposal maintains defense at about current levels. This is simply untrue. Here are the numbers from his Office of Management and Budget from this year’s budget request. In fiscal year 2010, defense spending was $721.3 billion in budget authority. Under the President’s proposal, defense spending will fall to $566.3 billion in fiscal year 2014.

This is a 21 percent reduction in just four years. Further, this does not account for the negative effects of inflation on the defense budget. Finally, the President’s budget proposal does not calculate the impact of automatic defense spending reductions in the Budget Control Act of 2011. These automatic spending cuts to defense will amount to more than $500 billion over nine years. While the House of Representatives has adopted a measure to defer these automatic cuts to defense by applying the necessary spending reductions to areas outside defense, President Obama’s White House threatened a veto in response to this measure.

President Obama wants the American people to believe that Governor Romney is proposing to increase the defense budget by $2 trillion. He calculates this by assuming that his defense spending reductions already apply, and therefore serve as the basis for comparisons. In reality, Governor Romney is proposing not to let President Obama’s defense budget reduction proposal to take place. America’s military is the single most valuable contributor to increasing the likelihood of a peaceful and prosperous world. Large-scale reductions in the defense budget, therefore, puts the prospects of a peaceful and prosperous world further out of reach.

– Baker Spring

Presidential Debate Largely Sidelines Latin America

On the 50th anniversary of the night John F. Kennedy addressed the American people on the gravest threat to international peace, the Cuban Missile Crisis [10], an opportunity was missed to discuss Latin America.

Therefore, one must read between the lines to see where the U.S. might stand in its relations to Latin America in the next four years.

Interestingly, when President Obama spoke of the strength of alliances in Europe, Asia, and Africa, he omitted to mention ties in Latin America. Slip or a deliberate omission?

Romney proposed a pivot back toward Latin America in order to establish a revitalized zone of economic opportunity focused on a market for U.S. products, one that is large or larger than China, near at hand, and in the same time zones. Romney spoke of repairing trade imbalances by addressing trade deficits, re-leveling the trade playing field, and an awareness of the impact of China’s competition even in the Americas.

Romney raised the prospect of treating Iran as “a pariah nation” focusing on not only its nuclear ambitions and support for terrorism but also on Iranian agents working abroad to undermine U.S. interests [11]. It is these diplomats who have gained substantial ground in Latin America over the past four years with the help of the likes of Hugo Chavez and company.

Romney also raised the issue that the Administration’s efforts to improve relations with Hugo Chavez and the Castros have borne only bitter fruit and continued frustration—from the persistence of repression in Cuba, the unjust incarceration of USAID worker Alan Gross, the emergence of populist authoritarianism, or the weakening of the Organization of the American States.

When it came to Latin America, President Obama offered no rationale for policy or a reason to believe that the region will ascend the ladder of presidential attention in the next Administration. Romney raised the possibility of lifting the veil on the region’s potential. Unfortunately, the debate did not have time to dig deeper into the different camps’ views on Latin America.

– Ray Walser

Federal Pay for Education Employees Won’t Create Jobs

President Obama accused Governor Romney of believing that class size “doesn’t make a difference” and that hiring teachers won’t create jobs.

Actually, class size, within reasonable bounds, does not impact student achievement. The National Center for Education Statistics, for example, has tracked the national student-teacher ratio over time. Today, nationally, the student-teacher ratio is just 15.2: 1. The student-teacher ratio has declined 29 percent since 1970 and by more than 40 percent since 1950. But despite these declines, academic achievement has seen little to no improvement, graduation rates have been stagnant, and achievement gaps persist.

Second, spending more taxpayer dollars on federal programs to hire education employees (President Obama proposes $25 billion to do just that) won’t create jobs. It will simply represent another large transfer of wealth from taxpayers to public education employees, half of whom are not teachers.

While enrollment in America’s public schools has not quite doubled since 1950, staff positions (both instructional and administrative) increased by 377 percent between 1950 and 2010 (a nearly five-fold increase). From 1970 to 2010, enrollment in the nation’s public schools increased just 7.8 percent; over the same time period, education staff increased 84 percent.

Again, such increases have failed to move the needle on student achievement. The only beneficiaries of new federal programs and spending have been the education unions.

– Lindsey Burke

Obama’s False Claim of a Tax Deduction for Outsourcing

President Obama said yet again that businesses get a tax deduction for shipping jobs overseas. No such tax policy exists.

President Obama also misrepresented the negative impact our international tax code has on job creation. We are one of the only countries that taxes our businesses on the income they earn in foreign countries. This makes us uncompetitive when it comes to attracting new investment and jobs. President Obama’s policy is to make our worldwide system more burdensome. This will cost us even more jobs.

Switching to a territorial system as Governor Romney supports would not outsource jobs overseas. It would make us more competitive for new investment and get us back in the game for the jobs it creates.

– Curtis Dubay

Obama’s Foreign Policy Failures

From China to the United Kingdom, no objective analysis would show that President Obama’s foreign policy record [12] has been a success. After removing all of Obama’s spin, here is what he didn’t tell us during the debate: China is getting more assertive [13], while draconian defense cuts [14] mean that U.S. military power is in decline. Iran is closer than ever before to getting a nuclear weapon, and Israel has never felt more threatened as a result. Although Osama bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is very much alive [15]. Since the “reset” with Russia in 2009, Moscow has been steamrolling U.S. policy in the region. Afghan policy has now been relegated down to timelines and withdrawal dates—neither of which are found in the lexicon of counter-insurgency. The Obama Administration cannot even bring itself to back America’s number one ally, the United Kingdom, with its dispute with Argentina [16] over the Falkland Islands. The world is dangerous and America is weaker.

– Luke Coffey

China and Trade

The candidates didn’t actually clash that much over China. Both used the line that we should make China “play by the rules.” But enforcement of those rules has spiked in 2012, which seems more political than substantive. Enforcement of those rules emphasizing currency manipulation in 2013 is unlikely to accomplish much.

What was more valuable is where the two candidates also seemed to agree, but did not. They both correctly talked about how, in creating American prosperity, what we do at home matters more than how we treat China. There was a clash of philosophies and fundamental approaches—a more sweeping role for government versus a smaller one, focused more on research than subsidies. This might be restated as competing with China using a more Chinese model or competing with China using the classic American model.

– Derek Scissors

President’s Green Energy Agenda Will Not Strengthen Foreign Policy

President Obama was correct to argue that a strong American economy supported by a robust energy sector could help bolster U.S. foreign policy. He was very wrong, however, to suggest that wasting taxpayer money on green energy could actually achieve this. The President argued that his green energy agenda would cut American energy imports (he actually said exports, but let’s assume he misspoke) in half by 2020. There are a number of problems with this approach.

Since the U.S. is largely energy independent in the electricity sector, we must assume that he’s speaking of transportation fuels. Unfortunately, the President’s transportation fuels policy will only lead to higher prices, less supply, and fewer choices for Americans. Essentially, the President’s policy is for Washington bureaucrats to micromanage both supply and demand of the transportation fuel sector. He does this by limiting our car lot options to only those vehicles that meet government-set fuel economy standards [17]. While we all want more miles per gallon, these are decisions better left to the consumer, not with Washington. Then he forces us to purchase [18] expensive biofuels like ethanol. Again, while we may choose to use alternative fuels in our vehicles, each American should be free to make that choice for himself or herself. And finally, the President’s policy keeps massive swaths of American oil and natural gas reserves off line. If the President desires to reduce imports, opening America’s energy reserves might be a good place to start.

Ultimately, with enough heavy-handed regulation, the President might be able force enough expensive biofuel into America’s gas tanks to meet his arbitrary pledge to cut energy imports in half. But doing so would be tremendously expensive and economically detrimental. So if the President truly believes that a strong foreign policy depends on a strong American economy, the time has come for a choice: government-funded green energy or a strong foreign policy.

– Jack Spencer

Stay Engaged in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Governor Romney rightly pointed out President Obama’s failure to secure a status of forces agreement with Iraq. The same kind of failure in Afghanistan would be disastrous for U.S. national security. The U.S. needs a residual force presence in Afghanistan for counterterrorism missions and for training the Afghan forces long after 2014, when U.S. combat forces are scheduled to withdraw. The U.S. must not repeat the mistake of turning its back on Afghanistan. Such a reckless policy would allow the Taliban to regain power and facilitate the regeneration of al-Qaeda and other terrorists intent on attacking the U.S.

President Obama made a mistake in announcing the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals back in 2009, before U.S. surge troops had even been deployed. But perhaps his biggest failure on Afghanistan has been his unwillingness to show leadership by explaining to an admittedly war-weary American public that U.S. national security is inextricably linked to the future of Afghanistan.

Governor Romney raised the importance of Pakistan in stabilizing Afghanistan, acknowledging its actions did not represent those of an “ally,” but cautioning against breaking ties with a country with the fastest-growing nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. Romney said the U.S. instead needed to encourage Pakistan on a more stable and responsible course and tie any future U.S aid to its progress in becoming a more civil society.

– Lisa Curtis

The U.S. Place in the World

The discussion of the U.S.’s place in the world in tonight’s debate was unsatisfactory. To the extent that it focused directly on that subject, both Obama and Romney sought to reduce it to a question of defense spending, which the President was eager to cut. That is the wrong approach; much better is to assess [19]what the U.S. needs to carry out its responsibilities and budget accordingly. But both men largely fought shy of presenting any larger vision of the U.S.’s role in the world, and sought to focus their remarks on domestic policy. Governor Romney led off with the U.S. need to defend freedom, promote the principles on which it was founded, and to support its allies, but after that the discussion diverged into job creation, a half-hearted defense by the President of his renewable energy policies, and a lengthy wrangle about education policy.

It is perfectly fair to argue that the U.S. cannot be strong abroad unless it is strong at home. In fact, this is one of the subjects that we hoped [20]this debate would focus on. But economic strength needs to be coupled to a broader understanding of the U.S.’s vital national interests in the world, to an understanding of the merits and limits of diplomacy, and—ultimately—to a vision, informed by the Constitution and the Declaration, of the purpose and processes of U.S. foreign policy. After Governor Romney’s opening, these vital subjects disappeared from the debate. That reflects, perhaps, the sentiment of both sides that the election will not be won on foreign policy.

But it also reflects a deeper underlying weakness of the way we think about foreign policy, as something removed from our constitutional system. As Dr. Edwin J. Feulner, the President of the Heritage Foundation, wrote [21]recently: “We must understand our Constitution if we are to defend what we have achieved under it, and we must know our history if we are to value the ordered liberty the Founders bequeathed to us. We must be free by governing ourselves, preserve our freedom for the next generation, and stand for freedom at home and abroad. We the people created this republic, and we the people must preserve it.” Defense spending is vital, but it is no substitute for a wider debate about the principles [22]the U.S. must embody—at home and abroad.

– Ted R. Bromund

Is America in Decline?

China. Global terrorism. Economic hardship at home. Despite dismissals of American exceptionalism and defeatist claims of America’s decline among some foreign critics, some academics, and some political pundits, the foundations of American statecraft are strong because they were well laid by the country’s founding fathers and secured by many decades of sound grand strategy—all sustained by the American people through taxpayer dollars and sacrifices of the U.S. Armed Services. If American decline occurs at this point in our history, it will be a choice. Decline is not inevitable.

The most important goal of American foreign policy is to defend the independence of the United States, so that America can govern itself according to its principles and pursue its national interests [23]. The U.S. must remain committed to providing for the common defense, protecting the freedom of American commerce, and seeking peaceful relations with other nations. These conditions will enable America to continue its international leadership and advance the ideas of political, economic, and religious freedom. For over 200 years, through regular diplomacy in times of peace and firm resolve in times of conflict, the United States has steadily, though at times imperfectly, enhanced the respect for the ideas of liberty, equality, and justice around the world. If America no longer fulfills this role, the global balance of power will inevitably shift in a direction more hostile to our liberties.

– Marion Smith

The Rising Chinese Military

Many people, including the President, look at the U.S. defense budget and decry the fact that it is larger than the next dozen or so states combined. Yet, the United States is a key enforcer of international norms and safety. It is the American Navy, more than any other, that keeps the world’s sea lanes safe. It is the United States Air Force that provides space situational awareness, including conjunction warnings, to all other space-faring nations (including China) and manages the GPS constellation to global benefit, both without charge.

By contrast, China’s military budget is spent almost entirely on Chinese interests. Of course, as the second largest economy in the world, one would expect China to have a substantial military, and one should not draw alarm simply from Chinese defense spending increases. Yet, instead of providing support for maintaining international order and sustaining global trade, Chinese military capabilities appear to be focused more on countering the United States. Moreover, China’s military can focus on contingencies in close proximity to itself, whereas the U.S. military has global responsibilities. Thus, China can asymmetrically commit its resources against only a portion of the U.S. military, and in the event of crisis, would likely try to defeat the U.S. in detail.

And in this situation, a shrinking Navy, no matter how advanced each platform may be, is simply less capable of balancing a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that is steadily growing, with ever more systems to replace losses and overwhelm American forces.

What should be of concern, then, is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appears to be increasingly asserting itself against its neighbors, whether it is expanding its forces opposite Taiwan or making claims of sovereignty over the South and East China Sea. In this regard, the PLA is a tool, rather than the agent, for China’s growing antagonism with so many of its neighbors.

– Dean Cheng

Afghanistan

During the debate President Obama once again highlighted that he would bring the war in Afghanistan [24] to a “responsible” end. If Afghanistan is about national security, like most believe, then the only “responsible” act is to ensure that U.S. objectives are met before any hasty troop reductions. After all, the whole point of a war is to achieve your objectives— not to leave it as soon as possible.

It is not all doom and gloom in Afghanistan. The security situation on the ground is improving slightly but remains fragile. In fact, figures recently released [25] from NATO show that the number of enemy-initiated attacks has decreased by 33 percent since August 2010. So far, NATO’s transition strategy [26], although not perfect, also appears to be working. The U.S. and NATO must not squander these achievements by hastily withdrawing troops based on political timetables at home. The commanders on the ground need the tools, the time, and the political will to get the job done. If you give a commander half the resources, he cannot deliver half a victory.

– Luke Coffey

Green Jobs: How NOT to Grow the Economy

President Obama’s vision for getting the economy growing again and generating more jobs is nothing more than the same failed stimulus policies that have yielded mediocre GDP growth along with persistently high levels of unemployment. Green energy job spending [27] alone has proved an abject failure—with company [27] after company [28] after company [29] failing—and taxpayer money going straight down the drain. It’s also the wrong policy to begin with: The government should not be picking winners and losers in any industry, or making so-called investments to commercialize sources of energy.

Americans have been through this before, and they recognize federal stimulus doesn’t create jobs. It only adds to the deficit and reduces money that the private sector and American families could have used much more efficiently.

– Emily Goff

“Military Did Not Ask For More”

Obama and Romney sparred on the defense budget and the point of how the numbers were developed. It was declared that the budget was soundly based on strategy and not based on a monetary top line.

A historical fact is that in the first Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the military laid out a strategy through which the Department of Defense could adequately defend the nation and its vital national interests. Exactly one year later, the President sent back specific budgetary guidance that was wholly divorced from that strategy. Any claim to the contrary is simply wrong.

See A Strong National Defense: The Armed Forces America Needs and What They Will Cost [30]

– Steve Bucci

The Real Reason Oil Imports Are Down

President Obama touted that oil imports to the United States have decreased “to the lowest level in two decades because we’ve developed oil and natural gas.” Oil imports are down, in part because of increased domestic oil production, but those increases are coming from private and state lands. Production on federal lands fell in fiscal year (FY) 2011 when compared to FY 2010. Oil imports have also fallen because Americans don’t fill up their gas tanks when they don’t have a job to drive to every day. The sluggish economy has reduced the demand for oil, which is certainly nothing to be proud of. President Obama also said we need to further cut imports by investing in clean technologies, but it’s important to remember that investing in wind and solar and renewable sources won’t reduce our dependence on foreign oil, because about 1 percent of our electricity comes from oil. And if electric vehicles, natural gas vehicles, or biofuels are economically viable alternatives to gas-powered vehicles, we won’t need government investments in those technologies. The private sector will take that lead.

– Nicolas Loris

Jobs on the Home Front

Obama talks of turning our attention to home, including bringing our veterans home. But there are no jobs for them at home, with unemployment hovering stubbornly around 8 percent [31] and job creation well below what is needed to grow the economy. Building up our roads and bridges won’t create new jobs. America’s workers need more than the same failed stimulus policies to grow the economy. Rather, the President needs to make sure Taxmageddon does not occur [32] and get control of the budget.

– Alison Fraser

More Free Trade Agreements with Latin America Will Create U.S. Jobs

President Obama claims to support free trade but has spent most of his presidency offering excuses for not taking any concrete steps to increase free trade. The Obama Administration did not take any meaningful actions to pass free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama [33]—negotiated in 2007—until Democrats in Congress finally insisted on their passage in 2011.

Governor Romney is correct that there are huge potentials for the U.S. to expand trade and investment with the large, pro-American markets in Latin America. An FTA with Brazil is an obvious place to start. [34]

– Jim Roberts

Space Policy

Discussions of how important space and cyber are occur in the context of the Chinese military. Over the past several years, there has been growing concern about the likelihood that China is pursuing a policy of space dominance, including programs specifically oriented toward counter-space operations. The most well-known example is the 2007 anti-satellite (ASAT) test, which generated enormous debris. Since then, though, the Chinese have engaged in further tests with potential anti-satellite implications. In January 2010, they undertook a test [35] in which “two geographically separated missile launch events with an exo-atmospheric collision.” Between June and August 2010, two Chinese satellites, SJ-06F and SJ-12, engaged in orbital rendezvous maneuvers that appear to have included “bumping” into each other [36]. None of these tests involved prior notification or announcement, heightening concerns and underscoring the opaque nature of China’s space program.

The problem is that no Administration has taken this threat sufficiently seriously to accelerate American defense efforts in space. Instead, we have seen a declining American space capability.

– Dean Cheng

Fiscal Problems Undermine America’s Strength

Is America really stronger than it was when President Obama took office? Consider these facts:

  • 2012 marked the fourth consecutive years of trillion-dollar-plus deficits [37].
  • The national debt is now over $16 trillion [38], having eclipsed the entire size of our economy.
  • The federal government currently spends $29,691 per household [39], a 29 percent increase (adjusted for inflation) from a decade ago.
  • 62 percent of total spending goes to the entitlement programs, and these programs are on course to skyrocket [40] if they are not reformed. President Obama has yet to offer a credible plan to reform these programs.

If America is truly going to continue to be an exceptional country and a strong voice for democracy and freedom abroad, our fiscal mess at home must be resolved. That means reducing spending and reforming entitlement and the tax system, all while fully funding defense and without raising taxes.

– Emily Goff

National Debt and National Security

Governor Romney cited Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the national debt is the biggest threat to our national security. No wonder Mullen is concerned [41]. Today debt held by the public is over 70 percent of GDP. In a decade, it will be 100 percent of GDP, and within a generation it will be nearly 200 percent [42].

President Obama agreed that we need to cut the deficit, but he listed off a litany of new government initiatives and more spending like the same old failed green energy plans and the misguided notion to raise taxes on those who are at the top, including and especially those small businesses that actually hire workers and create jobs. In fact, President Obama’s latest budget proposed $2 trillion in tax hikes and nearly $1 trillion in brand new spending, beyond those that are baked in the cake from existing spending. Moreover, he utterly failed to propose any solutions to our most basic debt-related challenge—entitlements.

Notably, this topic spilled over into tonight’s debate that was supposed to focus solely on foreign policy.

Why? Perhaps it’s because the previous debate was sadly devoid of the serious discussion of solving the entitlement crisis. Repealing Obamacare is a necessary first step. Romney was right about that. But it’s only a first step. And the fact is that taxing millionaires and billionaires will not solve the debt crisis; that class warfare approach will only slow the economy. What’s needed are strong reforms that will both strengthen the programs and make them affordable [43].

– Alison Fraser

The Navy and Number of Ships Needed

While the types of ships of today are different from those prior to World War I, there are certain laws of physics that have not changed. And one of those is that, no matter how much cyber capability or space capability may exist, a ship can still be only in one place at any one time. Thus, whether it is battleships or aircraft carriers, whether it is nuclear-powered submarines or biplanes, each system can only be in one place at any given time. And a shortfall of naval vessels, such as now exists, means that there will be times and places where there will be fewer ships than U.S. Navy analysts and officers deem appropriate and necessary.

The idea that better cyber capabilities can substitute for physical capabilities constitutes a fundamental misunderstanding of how military forces operate. Of course, it hasn’t been helped by the dismissive attitude assumed by President Obama’s first Secretary of Defense about how the U.S. had excessive numbers of aircraft carriers, as though the proper state of American security is to have parity with potential foes, rather than clear superiority.

– Dean Cheng

Defense Readiness Is Key to America’s Role in the World

The weakness of America’s economy is hurting America. The added self-inflicted wound of the cuts directed by the sequestration provision of the Budget Control Act will damage the readiness of the nation even further. When America’s allies see the leader of the free world as receding and leading from behind, they worry and pull back from operations that support U.S. interests.

When both candidates agree that America has a responsibility to lead, the conditions to ensure that leadership must be set and protected. To do that, sequestration must be turned off and the assault on readiness ended. The so-called $2 trillion that are “not asked for by the generals” is exactly what nearly every expert says America needs [19] to have solid defense (4 percent of GDP). America’s leadership in foreign affairs must be reinvigorated and provide all the tools needed by diplomats and intelligence professionals.

The argument that the present defense budgetary situation is based on strategy and exactly what the uniformed leaders have asked for is a little disingenuous. The cuts made in the last four years have been dollars-based, with the defense officials like Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta claiming further “cuts will be a disaster.” This must be changed.

– Steve Bucci

Taxing “the Wealthy”?

Again Obama raised the specter of hiking taxes on the wealthy as if to pay for out-of-control spending.  This will only further harm the economy, costing jobs and furthering a class warfare mentality, instead of discussing serious solutions to our twin crises of spending and debt.  In fact, unless spending is brought under control, taxes on every income level [44] would have to more than double to keep the balance in balance over the long term.

– Alison Fraser

Getting the Fiscal House in Order

Governor Romney’s statement that we need to cut spending [39] and get our country’s fiscal house in order could not ring more true. But gutting the defense budget [45] is not the solution. Setting that irresponsible policy aside, the fact remains that even eliminating defense spending completely would not balance the budget [46]. Reforming the entitlements—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—to rein in their out of control spending [47], as well as reducing other unnecessary, duplicative, or wasteful spending is the way forward, not slashing defense spending.

– Emily Goff

Fake “War Savings”

In order to “invest” (i.e. spend) in programs here at home, as President Obama alluded to, he would use so-called war spending savings. Yet assuming the federal government would keep war spending at its peak levels is unrealistic, and then using these “inflated projections [48]” in order to claim greater savings when the money is not all spent is a budget gimmick [49], plain and simple. Not only that, it would also excuse even greater levels of spending in Washington, at a time when Congress must turn its attention to reducing spending [39], not increasing it.

– Emily Goff

What’s So Great About America Anyway?

If America’s founding principles and its international influence since 1776 are not exceptional, then truly no nation is. American “exceptionalism” is meant to define the nature of America’s political order. Our principles are based on a dedication to universal truths rather than a restrictive understanding of nationhood based on language, ethnicity, territory, or religion. Ours is a nation open to all that adhere to its core principles, founded on reason and grounded in tradition. America was the first country on earth to commit to the ideas of liberty and equality at precisely the same moment it conceived of itself as an independent nation. America soon enshrined these principles in the oldest surviving written Constitution in history.

We must safeguard our sovereign independence abroad if we are to continue our indispensable role in the world. Rejecting the source of our goodness—our true principles—will dash any hopes for future greatness. As Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan both noted, “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” In the 21st century, Americans need to learn from the examples of our earlier statesmen who prudently applied our exceptional principles to the constantly changing circumstances of international affairs.

– Marion Smith

What Is America’s Role in the World?

America does have a special role in the world—one that is morally and philosophically grounded in the principles of human liberty, and in its sense of justice. This does not mean that the United States has a duty to topple all tyrannical regimes and establish republican governments the world over. That said, the United States may determine that in certain cases it is necessary to fight the monsters of despotism in order to protect its interests, defend freedom, and preserve peace. This means that the true consistency of American foreign policy is to be found not necessarily in its policies, which prudently adapt to changing circumstances, but in its guiding principles, which are unchanging and permanent.

For more on the subject, see the Understanding America booklet “What Is America’s Role in the World? [50]

– Marion Smith

Government Dependency at Home Weakens American Security

Increasingly, Americans look to government as a source of financial, physical, and emotional well-being. Americans’ growing dependency [51] on government is both a symptom and a cause of the move away from constitutional government and toward an ever-greater role for government in the daily lives of ordinary citizens. This trend not only weakens the U.S. constitutional order at home, but also undermines America’s ability to maintain its proper and constitutional role abroad. The unsustainable and growing welfare system threatens [52] our ability to remain an engine of economic growth and invest in prudent defense capabilities.

The Heritage Foundation has offered practical recommendations [53] for getting America back on the road to limited, constitutional government and maintaining the common defense against future threats to our national security. This path demands something of all Americans. We must practice individual responsibility at home if we are to remain the land of the free.

– Marion Smith

Arab Spring

Throughout the so-called Arab Spring, President Obama has taken a “leading from behind” approach, which is having disastrous results [54] to America’s interests in the region. It is clear that the Arab Spring has breathed new life into Islamic fundamentalist movements. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are finding new safe havens from which to operate—especially on the Arabian Peninsula and across northern Africa [6]. This was most vividly demonstrated on September 11, 2012, when the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other brave Americans were murdered in Benghazi by terrorists with suspected links to al-Qaeda. Six weeks later, we still do not know the truth about what happened.

The Arab Spring [55] has not meant that Western-style democracies would magically appear overnight across the Arab world. In contrast, we are seeing the Arab street responding to the Arab Spring by electing Islamic fundamentalists into power in the place of secular, albeit authoritarian, leaders aligned with U.S. interest. Simply look at what has happened in Egypt with the recent election of the Muslim Brotherhood. After the Iranian and Syrian axis, Israel’s biggest security threat now comes from Egypt—a country it had been on amiable terms with since 1979. Islamist parties now play a role they never experienced before in Tunisian politics, and the Administration is all but in a state of paralysis over Syria. One year after the death of Qaddafi, remnants of his supports are still fighting in the city of Bani Walid. These are not indicators of progress.

– Luke Coffey


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/22/heritage-experts-live-blog-the-final-presidential-debate/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/FinalDebate.jpg

[2] trying to stop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIixemuEe1s

[3] Syria: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/07/syria-american-leadership-needed-for-shaping-a-post-assad-syria

[4] publicly threaten: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/07/26/a-resurgent-al-qaeda-in-iraq-threatens-u-s-attack/

[5] in Yemen: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/05/08/al-qaeda-plot-disrupted-the-war-goes-on/

[6] northern Mali: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/10/fixing-mali-stabilized-governance-should-be-the-priority

[7] terrorist attack: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/09/13/911-attack-on-u-s-diplomats-in-libya-may-be-linked-to-al-qaeda/

[8] A Counterterrorism Strategy for the “Next Wave”: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/08/a-counterterrorism-strategy-for-the-next-wave

[9] Iranians and their government: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Statement-from-the-President-on-Iran

[10] the Cuban Missile Crisis: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/15/50-years-later-the-armageddon-men-of-october-fidel-and-raul-castro/?query=50+Years+Later:+The+Armageddon+Men+of+October+Fidel+and+Raul+Castro

[11] Iranian agents working abroad to undermine U.S. interests: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/01/iran-president-ahmadinejads-latin-american-visit

[12] foreign policy record: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/22/the-obama-doctrine-a-failed-policy-leaving-america-weaker-in-a-dangerous-world/

[13] more assertive: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/21/debate-prep-the-right-answers-on-china/

[14] draconian defense cuts: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/22/key-facts-about-the-military-budget/

[15] much alive: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/22/ignoring-the-terrorist-threat-doesnt-make-it-go-away/

[16] dispute with Argentina: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/06/06/barack-obamas-unwelcome-jubilee-present-to-britain/

[17] government-set fuel economy standards: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/08/28/new-auto-efficiency-regs-special-interests-win-consumers-lose/

[18] forces us to purchase: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/04/low-carbon-fuel-standards-will-drive-gas-prices-higher/

[19] assess : http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/04/a-strong-national-defense-the-armed-forces-america-needs-and-what-they-will-cost

[20] hoped : http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/22/debate-prep-americas-role-in-the-world/

[21] wrote : http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/08/what-is-the-role-of-the-people

[22] principles : http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/11/what-is-america-s-role-in-the-world

[23] interests: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/10/americas-founders-and-the-principles-of-foreign-policy-sovereign-independence

[24] Afghanistan: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/19/debate-prep-our-longest-war-afghanistan-and-pakistan/

[25] figures recently released: http://www.isaf.nato.int/images/stories/File/20120924_NIU_ISAF_Monthly_Data-Release%20%2528Final%2529.pdf

[26] NATO’s transition strategy: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/10/nato-must-refocus-on-afghanistan

[27] Green energy job spending: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/18/president-obamas-taxpayer-backed-green-energy-failures/

[28] company: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/16/another-green-failure-a123-files-for-bankruptcy/

[29] company: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/18/another-doe-backed-solar-company-goes-bankrupt/

[30] A Strong National Defense: The Armed Forces America Needs and What They Will Cost: http://herit.ag/SMngyk

[31] unemployment hovering stubbornly around 8 percent: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/10/heritage-employment-report-september-job-creation-still-slow

[32] Taxmageddon does not occur: http://www.heritage.org/research/factsheets/2012/04/taxmageddon-massive-tax-hikes-on-the-horizon0

[33] free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/05/ftas-with-south-korea-colombia-and-panama-would-create-us-jobs-and-exports

[34] An FTA with Brazil is an obvious place to start.: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/09/brazil-restoring-economic-growth-through-economic-freedom?query=Brazil:+Restoring+Economic+Growth+Through+Economic+Freedom

[35] test: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gIyJwTWQjzwLtHke9NhVHNS7qiHQ

[36] “bumping” into each other: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1689/1

[37] trillion-dollar-plus deficits: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/05/congressional-budget-office-confirms-fy-2012-deficit-exceeds-1-trillion/

[38] over $16 trillion: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/09/05/morning-bell-16000000000000/

[39] spends $29,691 per household: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/10/federal-spending-by-the-numbers-2012

[40] on course to skyrocket: http://www.heritage.org/federalbudget/entitlements-consume-economy

[41] Mullen is concerned: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/mullen-despite-deal-debt-still-a-risk-to-national-security/2011/08/02/gIQAhSr2oI_blog.html

[42] a generation it will be nearly 200 percent: http://www.heritage.org/federalbudget/national-debt-skyrocket

[43] strong reforms that will both strengthen the programs and make them affordable: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/03/how-to-fix-the-federal-budget

[44] taxes on every income level: http://www.heritage.org/federalbudget/entitlements-double-tax-rates

[45] defense budget: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/16/sequestration-spending-cuts-needed-but-get-the-policies-right/

[46] even eliminating defense spending completely would not balance the budget: http://www.heritage.org/federalbudget/defense-spending-entitlement-spending-problem

[47] out of control spending: http://www.heritage.org/federalbudget/entitlement-spending-double

[48] inflated projections: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/11/18/super-gimmick-how-to-spend-non-existent-war-savings/

[49] budget gimmick: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/04/spending-war-savings-is-still-a-budget-gimmick/

[50] What Is America’s Role in the World?: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/11/What-Is-America-s-Role-in-the-World

[51] dependency: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/02/2012-index-of-dependence-on-government

[52] threatens: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/22/defense-budget-competing-with-entitlement-spending-a-crisis-point/

[53] recommendations: http://www.heritage.org/research/projects/solutions-for-america

[54] disastrous results: http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2012/10/egypts-arab-spring-descends-into-an-islamist-winter

[55] Arab Spring: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/10/20/debate-prep-the-changing-middle-east-and-the-new-face-of-terrorism/

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