Politics & Policy

On National Security, Some Republicans May Be as Weak as the Democrats

It is a given that each of the Democrats running for president would fail to create a secure America, just as President Obama has. However, on Tuesday night in Las Vegas, we learned that some Republicans may be just as weak. They may talk a good game, but they either don’t know the necessary policy details or grow timid when they do.

Our country faces the greatest terrorist threat since 9/11. This is not an academic or theoretical debate for the Kansans I represent, or for Americans across the nation. The next commander-in-chief must be clear-eyed, steel-hearted, and unflinching in the face of terrorism, Putin’s imperialism, and Chinese aggression.

When candidates from either party beat their chest and say they will do “whatever it takes,” we are entitled to inquire further. Do their actions match their rhetoric, or they just engaged in manipulative politicking? For example, while it is necessary to call out “radical Islamic extremism,” and we should excoriate Secretary Clinton for failing to do so, it is not sufficient — and repeating it over and over does not a foreign policy make. Similarly, stressing the idea of “building a wall” as a core of one’s counterterrorism policy is tragically naïve. If terrorists are already on our southern border, a national-security failure has already occurred. Instead, we must crush these enemies where they live.

One of these places is Syria — an ungoverned territory where terrorist groups control swathes of land, Russian troops roam freely, and the Islamic Republic of Iran has found an ally in the fanatical butcher Bashar al-Assad. Because of these circumstances, the United States does have a side in the fight — the American side. It is in our interest to crush ISIS, terrorist groups like the al-Nusra front and Ahrar ash-Sham, and Iran’s puppet Assad. Any candidate who thinks that we only need to attack ISIS from the sky, without regard to where they flourish and why, shares President Obama’s view that Iran is our partner in peace. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and Assad are two sides of the same terror coin. Letting Assad continue to wield lethal power means that Tehran’s terror network — from Hezbollah to the Houthis — will persist in threatening the West.

#share#To crush these terrorists abroad, we need to use all the legal means in our toolbox to take them on. This means empowering our intelligence agencies to do their jobs and track terrorist activity. Candidates cannot bark loudly about protecting America and then muzzle those tasked with carrying out that duty. Those who today suggest that the USA FREEDOM Act, which gutted the National Security Agency’s (NSA) metadata program, enables the intelligence community to better prevent and investigate threats against the U.S. are lying. I use that word intentionally, because these candidates know better. Less intelligence capacity equals less safety. To share Edward Snowden’s vision of America as the problem is to come down on the side of President Obama’s diminishing willingness to collect intelligence on jihadis. No Republican candidate who does that is worthy of our vote.

I have just introduced the Liberty through Strength Act II in the House of Representatives to restore the NSA’s tools. We cannot expect our intelligence professionals to prevent terrorist attacks while handcuffing them at the same time.

#related#America’s next leader must also demonstrate leadership at home in order to project power abroad. Each year Congress passes laws that provide policies for our armed forces. To oppose these measures each year with the goal of currying favor with conspiracy theorists is not leadership, but capitulation. The correct response to your constituents’ concerns would be to provide the truth, not feed the hysteria. The last three National Defense Authorization Acts have passed with strong bipartisan support, as most members of Congress want to stand with our military, enable troop funding, and support Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. The threats today make clear the urgent need to ensure our Army, Navy, and Air Force are fully funded, modernized, and prepared to fight.

This is not a thought exercise for me. As a West Point graduate, I’ve seen what weak leadership can do to our warriors and to our country. The last seven years have left America weak, at risk from Islamic terror at home, and ineffective on the global stage. The next commander-in-chief faces the daunting but critical task of providing the world with a vision for a peaceful tomorrow.

— Mike Pompeo represents the fourth district of Kansas in the House of Representatives.