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Pentagon Issues Surface — A Bit — At Presidential Debate

Posted by Colin Clark on

Pentagon & beyond - view of DC over river - 032113-Pentagon-full

At last night’s debate for those with a real shot at the nomination, there was an inverse proportion between the putative Republican presidential candidates’ places in the polls and the detail of information they offered about the US military.

Most of the jaw-jaw — for that’s all it is at this stage in the race — was about Israel, Iran and the nuclear deal. There were no surprises there. But, surprisingly so early in a race loaded with what seems like half of the GOP Senate running for president, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and of all people, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson actually offered some specifics about what the US military would look like if they get elected.

The GOP field overall does seem to have dropped its aversion to a “strong” national security — though no one actually discussed how or if they would get rid of sequestration. There was a great deal of safe talk about “leadership” and how the candidates would really be so different from President Obama (wait til you start getting the Presidential Daily Briefing before you promise to do things really differently).

For example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said this when asked what he would do if Russia’s Vlad Putin threatened the Baltic states:

“Under Obama and Clinton, we found a lot of mush over the last two years. We need to have a national security that puts steel in front of our enemies. I would send weapons to Ukraine. I would work with NATO to put forces on the eastern border of Poland and the Baltic nations, and I would reinstate, put in place back in the missile defense system that we had in Poland and in the Czech Republic.”

Christie made the only really detailed remarks about the Pentagon.

“The first thing we need to do to make America stronger is to strengthen our military, and I put out a really specific plan: no less than 500,000 active duty soldiers in the Army. No less than 185,000 active duty marines in the Marine Corps. Bring us to a 350 ship Navy again, and modernize the Ohio class of submarines, and bring our Air Force back to 2,600 aircraft that are ready to go,” he said.

“Those are the kind of things that are going to send a clear message around the world. Those are the things that we need to start working on immediately to make our country stronger and make it better. Those are the things that we need to be able to be doing.”

Well, we’ll take that all more seriously when Christie rises above 10 percent favorability ratings in the GOP polls. So far, he and Dr. Carson, the only other candidate to talk much about the actual military, are at the very bottom of the GOP polls.

Here’s what Carson had to say, none of it revelatory to those who follow the military or read Breaking D:

“Our Navy is at its smallest size since 1917; our Air Force, since 1940. In recent testimony, the commandant of the Marine Corps said half of the non-deployed units were not ready and you know, the sequester is cutting the heart out of our personnel. Our generals are retiring because they don’t want to be part of this, and at the same time, our enemies are increasing.

“Our — our friends can’t trust us anymore. You know, Ukraine was a nuclear-armed state. They gave away their nuclear arms with the understanding that we would protect them. We won’t even give them offensive weapons.

“You know, we turned our back on Israel, our ally. You know, and a situation like that, of course Obama’s not going to be able to do anything. I would shore up our military first, because if you don’t get the military right, nothing else is going to work.”

Well, doctor, some of that may be true (not sure about those retiring generals). We’ll wait to hear details from those who have a decent shot at actually getting picked as the GOP nominee. The fact that none of the frontrunners have discussed military issues remains more illuminating.

What do you think?