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National Party Platforms Set Different Courses on National Defense

September 6, 2012
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"Peace Through Strength" vs. Obama World View

National political platforms are important for the insight they provide into the character of party leaders who write and approve them.  In both substance and process, differences between the Republican and Democratic National Committee Platforms are consequential and relevant to voters considering the likely direction of the next administration and the 113th Congress.

In Tampa, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, both political parties approved platforms that differ on many topics, including fundamental principles that will guide the next Commander-in-Chief: 

The floor fiasco that occurred at the Democratic convention revealed more than sloppy process.   With the whole world watching, convention officials suspended orderly procedures and ignored the protests of delegates who opposed re-insertion of language recognizing the deity, God, and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

The triple voice vote, which clearly failed to meet the two-thirds majority threshold, was more than clumsy.  Standard parliamentary rules, which Republicans used during their platform-writing process, requires a voice vote to settle disagreement first, followed by a counted show of hands, and then a roll call vote if the first two tallies still leave the outcome in doubt.    

Videotape shows that Democratic convention leaders pre-scripted the desired voice-vote result on the chairman's TelePrompter.  But the delegates who booed God and Jerusalem did not follow the script.  The resulting political embarrassment revealed liberal ideology that permeates the Democratic Platform's statements on defense and foreign policy. 

National platforms are not free-lance manifestos.  In both convention cities, President Barack Obama, Governor Mitt Romney, and their most-trusted advisors had to be involved at every step of the way.

Peace Through Strength--Or Persuasion?

There are a few areas of defense and national security policy on which both parties agree − cyber-threats, nuclear proliferation, biological weapons, and human trafficking, for example.  But the Republican Platform repeatedly invokes the guiding principle of President Ronald Reagan, "Peace Through Strength." Republicans issue a clear call for "American military superiority [that] has been the cornerstone of a strategy that seeks to deter aggression or defeat of those who threaten our national security interests." (p. 39)

The Democrats hail the removal of troops from Iraq and the death of terrorist Osama Bin Laden, claiming, "Today America is both stronger and safer than it was four years ago."  The platform focuses on "an identifiable network of people: al Qaeda and its affiliates," and hails the administration's transition of responsibility to Afghan security forces.  The Democratic Platform also includes "Climate Change" on the list of emerging threats to America, and praises the administration for taking a leadership role in "ongoing climate negotiations" that will mobilize necessary climate change funding for developing countries. 

The Republican Platform criticizes President Obama's National Security Strategy that, they say,

"...uses the word 'climate' more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction.  The phrase 'global war on terror' does not appear at all, and has been purposely avoided and changed by his Administration to 'overseas contingency operations'." (p. 40)

Defense Spending

Democrats shrug off concerns about severe defense budget cuts, blaming Republicans for looming "sequestration" cuts that the current Congress seems unable to stop.  The Republican Platform decries the  $467 billion cut in defense budgets over ten years (already underway), plus the threat of $600 billion more in severe automatic budget cuts that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has admitted would be "'devastating" to America's military.  The platform provides some specifics:    

"If he (Obama) allows an additional half trillion dollars to be cut from the defense budget, America will be left with the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history -- at a time when our nation faces a growing range of threats to our national security and a struggling economy that can ill afford to lose 1.5 million defense-related jobs." (p. 39-40)

Defense and Danger in the Middle East

Language in the Democratic Platform pledging to maintain "an unshakable commitment to Israel's security" did not mitigate the controversy about Jerusalem.  Observers also noted that the original Democratic Platform  did not join Republicans in a statement like this: "[R]adical elements like Hamas and Hezbollah must be isolated because they do not meet the standards of peace and diplomacy of the international community." (p. 50)  In contrast, the Democratic Platform includes general support for defense of Israel, while hailing "[t]he Arab Spring, [which] represents the world's most sweeping recent movement toward democracy..."

The Republican Platform, which warily comments on democratic movements that have overturned dictators in the Middle East, could be faulted for not mentioning the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations that enforce sharia law and are aligned with Iran and other enemies of Israel.  However, the Republicans wrote elsewhere in the platform, "The U.S. Constitution is the law of the land.  Judicial activism which includes reliance on foreign law or unratified treaties undermines American law." (p. 25)

Military/Social Issues

The Democratic Platform Committee was co-chaired by Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, USA (Ret.), a former Chairman of the Pentagon's feminist Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, and included many prominent liberals, including retiring Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA). 

Not surprisingly, the platform strongly supports same-sex marriage and an end to discrimination based on "sexual orientation" and "gender-identity."  (The latter phrase primarily refers to transgendered persons, the "T" in LGBT.)  Democrats oppose the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA ) which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  President Bill Clinton signed the DOMA in 1996, but in 2011 the Obama Justice Department announced that it would no longer defend the law in court, making it necessary for Congress to hire counsel to handle the law's defense.

Democrats call for advancement of women in the workplace, but do not mention the controversial push for women in land combat infantry battalions in order to advance "diversity metrics."  Nor do they mention President Obama's annual celebrations of "LGBT Equality Month" at the White House.  Both omissions suggest a "wait until the election is over" strategy of appealing to the LGBT Left without alienating social conservative voters, including strategically-important Hispanics in swing states.

Republicans, in contrast, have begun to push back against unprecedented social experimentation that has occurred during the past three-and-a-half years of the Obama Administration.  In addition to adopting strong planks reaffirming support for military veterans, Republicans laid the groundwork for repairing the damage on a wide range of military/social issues.

Republicans oppose social experimentation in the military, pressures to force military women into direct ground combat (infantry) battalions; and special interest demands and divisive gay pride activism; e.g., Pentagon pressure groups for same-sex marriage benefits and the wearing of military uniforms in gay pride parades.  In addition, Republicans support rights of conscience and religious liberty for chaplains and people of faith, and legal defense of traditional marriage. 

In response to legislation to repeal the 1993 law regarding gays in the military, which was rammed through the 2010 lame-duck session, Republicans recommend a measured approach, pledging, "We will support an objective and open-minded review of the current administration's management of military personnel policies, and will correct problems with appropriate administrative, legal, or legislative action."

The text of planks on military/social issues and background on them is available here:

Republicans correctly recognize that we cannot have a strong defense without a strong economy:

"History proves that the best way to promote peace and prevent costly wars is to ensure that we constantly renew America's economic strength.  A healthy American economy is what underwrites and sustains American power....In an American century, America will have the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world." (p. 39)

The two party platforms, and statements made by the two presidential candidates themselves, demonstrate why this could be the most important American election since 1980.

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The Center for Military Readiness is an independent, non-partisan public policy organization that specializes in military/social issues.  CMR does not endorse political candidates.

 


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