WASHINGTON, D.C., October 24, 2012 — Monday night’s final major-party presidential debate focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and national security. Moderator Bob Schieffer at one point asked each of the candidates, “What do you believe is the greatest future threat to the national security of this country?”
President Obama responded: “Well, I think it will continue to be terrorist networks. We have to remain vigilant, as I just said. But with respect to China, China is both an adversary, but also a potential partner in the international community if it’s following the rules. So my attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.”
Governor Romney responded to Obama: “Well, first of all, it’s not government that makes business successful. It’s not government investments that makes businesses grow and hire people. Let me also note that the greatest threat that the world faces, the greatest national security threat is a nuclear Iran.”
Interestingly, earlier in the debate, when Governor Romney explained America’s role in world affairs he mentioned the burden our debt places upon our ability to conduct ourselves abroad, saying: “Former chief of the — Joint Chiefs of Staff said that — Admiral Mullen said that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face.”
Governor Romney and President Obama should recognize the wisdom of Mullen’s assessment. Undoubtedly, America’s runaway national deficit, which is chock-full of catastrophic future implications for Americans and makes us more beholden to the interests of foreign governments, is the greatest threat to America’s national security.
In 2009, when Barack Obama was sworn in as Commander in Chief, he inherited President Bush’s $12 trillion deficit. Running on a promise to “cut the deficit in half,” President Obama has raised the debt ceiling, resulting in a federal debt that has grown to over $16 trillion. To put into perspective how quickly the United States has accumulated debt over the previous ten years, consider the following: it took the republic two centuries, from 1789 until 1998, to amass $5 trillion in debt. America is racing towards a fiscal cliff with no signs of slowing down.
The federal government finances part of its operations through the act of borrowing from foreign governments, such as China and Japan. Together, these two nations hold over $4 trillion in U.S. debt. Not unlike presidential campaigns which take donations from wealthy individuals and large corporations, and promise to remain impartial, the practice of borrowing from foreign governments is counter-intuitive. Essentially, the US is allowing itself to become increasingly beholden to the very foreign governments against which it must protect itself, and against whom it must compete globally. America’s indebtedness creates a terrible dilemma whereby Washington policy may easily be based upon/influenced by the interests of foreign governments, and in so doing compromise national security and economy.
Many prominent Americans have expressed concern that the national deficit is a threat to security. In addition to the warnings of Admiral Mullen, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates seemed to recognize the severity of the debt during his tenure in the Obama administration. Gates offered to make necessary cuts to military spending, saying: “The Pentagon must hold down its spending and make choices that will anger “powerful people” in an era of economic strain.”
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has observed: “I think that overwhelmingly the polls also show that people are concerned about the debt, and you have reasonable people saying that one of our biggest threats to our national security is the debt.” Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan perhaps said it best in an article entitled Fatal Flaw of Democracies: “We just can’t afford it!”
Not long ago, every America child heard that, at one time or another, in the home in which he or she was raised. “We just can’t afford it!” It may have been a new car, or two weeks at the beach, or the new flat-panel TV screen. Every family knew there were times you had to do without. Every father and mother has had to disappoint their kids with those words. Why is it that what parents do many times a year politicians seem incapable of doing: saying no. How many times in the last decade have the political leaders of either party stood up and declared, “No, we cannot afford this.” American officials in government must begin to utter the words: “We can’t afford it” or the safety and security of current and future generations will be forever jeopardized.”
America’s national debt is its greatest international vulnerability. While small businesses failings, home foreclosures, high unemployment, and taxpayer-funded corporate bailouts consume our attention and leave us angered, our “tax and spend, or borrow” philosophy has positioned us for a much more ominous betrayal- one in which foreign countries dictate American policy, to their own ends.
This continuing erosion of financial power within our own “home” leaves us vulnerable to the financial and military agendas of other nations. Despite the questionable priorities of the two major party presidential candidates, the American people must themselves recognize the severity of the situation and the increasing threat that comes with indebtedness to foreign powers, and in turn demand that our leaders keep us debt free and truly safe.
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