- - Tuesday, July 2, 2013

This week’s anniversary of the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg is a reminder of the horrific costs of war — and of the dangers of not being prepared to wage and win such conflicts when they arise. It should also serve as a wake-up call about a fratricidal struggle over the failure to learn such lessons that is now going on with the Republican Party.

The latter struggle has not been widely recognized outside of certain conservative and Republican circles. Its mortal peril for the movement and party is going largely unremarked, even as the high cost to the country sure ultimately to be associated with it becomes ever more predictable.

The danger is that the large percentage of Americans who favor what Ronald Reagan aptly described as a posture of “peace through strength” are being disenfranchised. They were long ago abandoned by the sort of “Blame America First” Democrats who took over their party during the Vietnam era — and who populate the Obama administration’s senior echelons.

Now, those voters are being abandoned by many Republicans, too. The GOP leadership is, at best, inattentive and seemingly not personally comfortable with anything but the most platitudinous of national security positions — like “support the troops” and “maintain a strong defense.” At worst, such leaders, and the people they consider most important to the party’s future, are actively embracing libertarian neo-isolationism and the attendant willingness to abandon even these planks.

In short, the Republican Party and conservative movement are going AWOL on defense, to the point where the brilliant former prosecutor-turned-savant, Andrew C. McCarthy, recently warned in National Review Online: “There is no longer a dominant national-security right.”

Consider the implications of such a prospect in the era of President Obama’s disastrous doctrine of emboldening our enemies, undermining our friends and diminishing our nation:

Russia and China have become increasingly brazen in their contempt for an America led by a man their regimes clearly perceive as weak, irresolute and compliant. Both countries are engaged in massive upgrades to their nuclear arsenals and, in the case of China, building as well the capacity to challenge the United States military not just in the Pacific, but worldwide.

Wrecking our armed forces: The Obama response to such dangers has been a systematic hollowing out of our military, unilateral denuclearization, losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and dismantling whatever it can of the counterterrorism capabilities it inherited from the previous administration.

The tragedy — for the nation and for the Republican Party — is that this assault on our national security has gone largely unchallenged by a loyal opposition. In fact, it is more and more the case that some self-described “conservatives” and GOP politicians are actively aiding and abetting the devastation of our immigration laws; the evisceration of our defenses via sequestration; the atrophying and dismantling of our nuclear deterrent and missile defenses; and the legitimation and empowering of Islamists, at home and abroad.

Millions of Americans still know enough about history — our own and others’ — to understand that such measures will be formulas for disaster in the future, as they have been in the past. They are entitled to at least one party to represent and act upon such common-sense and time-tested perceptions. If the Republican Party fails to offer that choice, it will neither earn their support nor deserve it. It will be, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln’s historic observation, a house divided that will not stand.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. He is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the syndicated program Secure Freedom Radio.