Will the 2016 Election Be All About National Security?

by Reihan Salam

Will national security be the most important issue in the 2016 election? At least one Republican senator, Richard Burr of North Carolina, is banking on it, according to a new report in National Journal. Reporter Alex Roarty details why Burr and his political team believe that national security will be so important next year, with reference to widespread concerns over “the rise of the Islamic State, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and concerns about Obama’s negotiations with Iran over a nuclear-arms treaty.” He observes that recent national polls give the GOP a big advantage over Democrats when it comes to the handling of foreign policy. Yet Roarty ends with a cautionary note for Republicans:

And the public, while skeptical of negotiations with the Iranians, overwhelmingly prefers talks to military involvement, according to a survey this week from Quinnipiac University. The balance for Republicans such as Burr is to criticize the direction of the talks while making it clear he doesn’t support a military attack.

“I don’t think anybody in America believes that we’re on the verge of shipping a couple of hundred thousand troops somewhere to fight a war,” he said. “There may be some who would like us to do that, but a majority of the American people think that is in our rearview mirror.”

Pat Brennan writes that the nuclear deal the Obama administration appears to have struck with Iran looks very disappointing. Yet public opposition to a military strike against Iran must be taken seriously, particularly since the Iranian threat is not the only one that’s grown far worse over the course of the Obama presidency, as evidenced by Russia’s dismemberment of Ukraine and the growing strength of Chinese military forces in the western Pacific. We can’t do everything and be everywhere at once, whether we like it or not. Conservatives need to think seriously about how we might, in the words of Brookings defense analyst Kenneth Pollack, ”put pressure on Iran in various ways, to keep it on the defensive and to encourage the end of the regime.” A military strike might ultimately prove to be our best or our only option, but as the debate over Iran continues to unfold this year and next, it is vitally important that conservative candidates make it clear that war is their last resort.

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