Thursday, January 30, 2014

Arsenal Of Democrazy

Come to think of it - 44 has tons in common with 32...

An American president is sinking fast, dragged down by his signature domestic initiative. He overcame initial opposition by ramrodding his legislation through Congress, where members did not even read it, and then pressured the Supreme Court to defend the law against serious charges of unconstitutionality. Tactical victories, however, gave way to real political defeats, as his policies failed to work as promised. The president’s poll numbers have taken a nose-dive, and Congress has begun to fight back against an imperial executive.

At the same time, foreign threats loom. Authoritarian governments are on the march as America’s retreat from its global responsibilities has given our enemies renewed confidence and time to rearm, even as our allies lose direction and hope. The American electorate seems determined to turn its back on the outside world, after draining, difficult conflicts where America’s armed forces won the war but her politicians lost the peace.

It was in October 1937 that 32 gave his first speech calling for “a quarantine of the aggressor nations,” meaning Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperial Japan. Today, China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia have replaced the aggressors of old. 44 could start rallying America to confront the rising tide of dictatorship in the Middle East and Asia — without putting another pair of American boots on the ground, launching another Predator drone, or spending another defense dollar.

How? Launch a modern-day version of what 32 called the “Arsenal of Democracy,” which supplied the Western liberal powers with the arms they needed both before and after the outbreak of World War II — which ultimately enabled the United States and its allies to win the greatest conflict in history. A similar unleashing of American defense production to arm our allies could have a powerful deterrent effect on today’s “aggressor nations” and help restabilize a world that’s grown more anxious and dangerous. Just as important, it would boost jobs and economic prosperity here at home, in the same way the original Arsenal broke the back of the Great Depression in 1939–40.

Across Asia and the Middle East, our allies are looking to modernize and expand their military budgets in order to deal with the growing belligerence of China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. Japan’s defense ministry wants a 3 percent boost in spending in fiscal year 2014, to $49 billion. South Korea is considering an even bigger boost this year, 4.2 percent, while the Philippines is gearing up to modernize its air and sea forces as China continues to bully neighbors in the South and East China Seas. Saudi Arabia, Little Satan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates are also in the market to bolster their militaries, as Iran’s malign influence grows in Syria and Lebanon — and as Russia has become a dominant naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean for the first time since the 1970s

America’s defense firms are more than ready to meet the growing demand, for supply ships and tanker planes and missile defense, if 44 and Congress can agree on a comprehensive plan to make such trade possible. A first step would be to amend the two pieces of legislation that oversee American foreign arms sales — the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 — much as 32 amended the Neutrality Act in 1939. Both are relics of the Cold War, constraining our firms’ ability to compete for contracts and steering arms sales toward monolithic big-ticket items such as the F-35 fighter instead of systems our allies really need and want for force-building.

A second would be to use the bully pulpit of the presidency, just as 32 did, to build public awareness of the challenge posed by today’s aggressors, and to reassure our allies that we will help them garner the resources they need to make their neighborhoods safe.

A new Arsenal of Democracy will strengthen our allies, boost our economy, and preserve our own defense-industrial base at a time when Pentagon budgets are bound to be flat and even declining. It will also make it clear that we are no longer going to stand by and watch anarchy surge across the globe.

44's legacy doesn’t have to be “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” It could be his role as the protector of Western values in the 21st century, defending freedom abroad, creating jobs at home, and promoting stability and security in a world that sorely needs both.
Pic - "State Of Defense"