National security rating #5: Strengthen our national defense

Supporting the military has been a standard campaign position for most national politicians since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. For the most part, though, “supporting the military” or “supporting the troops” have been little more than slogans with little meaning beyond appropriating more money.

Strengthing our national defense is general topic #5 of the Center for Security Policy’s 2020 National Security Voter Guide.

The Bernie Sanders wing of the Democrat party is unabashed about slashing America’s national defense. Joe Biden, by contrast, has been a consistent supporter of the military and has supported increases in military spending and development and deployment of advanced military systems. Donald Trump has also been a strong supporter of the military and national defense in general.

For this criterion, it’s the details that matter. The 2020 Voter Guide has considered the following elements to evaluate each candidate: breakout from the legacy Cold War and Global War on Terror defense strategies; modernization of the concept of national defense; advancement of US defense in outer space; stopping endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; ending needless subsidies of foreign allies and making allies pay their fair share of mutual defense; modernizing and strengthening traditional alliances; building new strategic relations with interests and abilities to counter common threats; and helping other countries to exercise their own sovereignty and defense in order to enhance US interests while reducing US commitments and costs. Regionally based threats like Russia, China, North Korea, and the Middle East are treated as separate points of evaluation.

Joe Biden. Biden’s defense positions in general have been along the conventional post-Cold War legacy lines, combined with the Obama adaptation of the George W. Bush Global War on Terror configuration of American defense. He has shown few if any differences with the Obama defense policies from when he was vice president.

Donald Trump. Trump’s stated positions are more visionary and the president has worked toward achieving many of them. He has redefined the concept of national defense away from the globalism and interventionism of his Democrat and Republican predecessors. He created a new military service, the US Space Force. He has demonstrated a commitment to extracting the US from endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while destroying ISIS in the process. He dealt vigorously with military allies in Europe and Asia that had not paid their fair share of defense commitments. He treated NATO with the tough love it needed to become a stronger alliance by making each member pay 2 percent of its GDP for the alliance, favored Poland over the morally weaker Germany as a staunch continental ally, and helped European allies by slowing and stopping refugee flows from the east and south. He built the strongest-ever US relations with India against China. He also led a strategic rebalance of the Middle East to strengthen the sovereignty of friendly countries and resist Iran, which we discuss in a separate section.

Strengthen our national defense verdict – Trump: Strong. Biden: Weak.

About J. Michael Waller

J. Michael Waller is Senior Analyst for Strategy at the Center for Security Policy. His areas of concentration are propaganda, political warfare, psychological warfare, and subversion. He is the former Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school in Washington, DC. A former instructor with the Naval Postgraduate School, he is an instructor/lecturer at the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.