Straw polls are notoriously overrated. This observation applies especially to the over-hyped one held most recently in Ames, Iowa over the weekend.
That said, for Americans concerned about national security and seized with the necessity of electing as our next commander-in-chief a principled, competent leader, the outcome was heartening.
That is true first and foremost because Michele Bachmann garnered the most votes. I have had the privilege of briefing and interacting with her on numerous occasions over the years that this Minnesota Republican has been in Congress. She is a thoughtful, quick study with very sound instincts. She embraces and would, if elected, surely apply Ronald Reagan’s strategy of “peace through strength.”
In fact, in 2010, Rep. Bachmann was among the candidates for office who signed onto a platform enumerating the principles she would be guided by in applying that strategy. (An updated version featuring twelve, rather than the original 10, planks – “Twelve for ’12” – can be found at (www.peacethroughstrength.com).
Among the principles to which Ms. Bachmann has pledged to adhere are:
• A robust defense posture including: A safe, reliable effective nuclear deterrent, which requires its modernization and testing; the deployment of comprehensive defenses against missile attack; and national protection against unconventional forms of warfare – including biological, electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) and cyber attacks.
• Preservation of U.S. sovereignty against international treaties, judicial rulings and other measures that would have the effect of supplanting or otherwise diminishing the U.S. Constitution and the representative, accountable form of government it guarantees.
• A nation free of Shariah, the brutally repressive and anti-Constitutional totalitarian program that governs in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Islamic states and that terrorists are fighting to impose worldwide.
• Energy security, realized by exploiting to the fullest the natural resources and technologies available in this country. We Americans must reduce our dependence for energy upon – and transfers of national wealth to – enemies of this country.
• Borders secure against penetration by terrorists, narco-traffickers or others seeking to enter the United States illegally. Aliens who have violated immigration laws should not be rewarded with the privileges of citizenship.
• A foreign policy that supports our allies and opposes our adversaries. It should be clearly preferable to be a friend of the United States, not its enemy.
The further good news out of Iowa is that, when taken together with Ms. Bachmann’s plurality of votes, those given to other candidates whose governing philosophy tracks with peace through strength – third place (and now former candidate) Tim Pawlenty, fourth place Rick Santorum and fifth place Herman Cain, the take-away for Republicans should be clear: Voters in America are looking for leadership qualities in their next president that will keep them safe, as well as help curb the deficit and create jobs.
Two contenders who did not compete in the Iowa straw vote – present Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts – appear to be positioning themselves on the right side of how to manage the national security portfolio, as well. Mr. Perry is touting his service as an Air Force pilot and taking counsel from advisors deeply imbued with the Reagan philosophy.
For his part, Mr. Romney staked out a position last year strongly opposing the defective New START Treaty with Russia. Unfortunately, that accord was subsequently, and scandalously, approved by the Senate during its lame duck session. Still, the Romney critique about the treaty’s unequal terms, unverifiability and negative implications for U.S. missile defense options tracked with conservative national security thinking. It is also being vindicated by Vladimir Putin’s conduct with respect to Russia’s nuclear build-up and its obstructionism towards our anti-missile systems.
To be sure, there is some significant percentage of the electorate, including its Republican subset, that finds appealing the isolationist, come-home-America, use-defense-spending-as-the-billpayer-for-other-priorities platform of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. That unabashed champion of what might be called the “hope-for-peace-despite-U.S. weakness” strategy came in second in the Iowa straw poll.
Such sentiments among the libertarian right track with those of like mind on the radical left, at least with respect to hollowing out the military. As a result, the nation’s ability to maintain the strength that history has taught is necessary to preserve the peace will be up for grabs in November 2012.
How it will all play out may depend critically on what happens internationally in the meantime, as enemies of this country take stock – and perhaps take action – in the face of what they rightly perceive to be declining American power and resolve under President Obama.
If we are to avoid a far more dangerous international environment for Americans and their interests in the future, we must elect a president next year who has what it takes to pursue peace through strength. Let us hope that what began in Iowa this weekend is the precursor to such a necessary course correction.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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