- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Straw polls are notoriously overrated. This observation applies especially to the overhyped one held in Ames, Iowa, over the weekend.

That said, for Americans concerned about national security and seized with the necessity of electing as our next commander in chief a principled, competent leader, the outcome was heartening.

That is true first and foremost because Michele Bachmann garnered the most votes. I have had the privilege of briefing and interacting with this Minnesota Republican on numerous occasions over the years that she has been in Congress. She is a thoughtful, quick study with very sound instincts. She embraces and surely would, if elected, apply Ronald Reagan’s strategy of “peace through strength.”

In fact, in 2010, Mrs. Bachmann was among the candidates for office who signed on to a platform enumerating the principles by which they would be guided in applying that strategy. (An updated version featuring 12, rather than the original 10 planks - “Twelve for ‘12” - can be found at peacethroughstrength.com).

Among the principles to which Mrs. Bachmann has pledged to adhere are:

c A robust defense posture, including a safe, reliable and effective nuclear deterrent, which requires its modernization and testing; the deployment of comprehensive defenses against missile attack; and national protection against unconventional forms of warfare, including biological, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and cyber-attacks.

c Preservation of U.S. sovereignty against international treaties, judicial rulings and other measures that would have the effect of supplanting or otherwise diminishing the U.S. Constitution and the representative, accountable form of government it guarantees.

c A nation free of Shariah, the brutally repressive and anti-constitutional totalitarian program that governs in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Islamic states and that terrorists are fighting to impose worldwide.

c Energy security, realized by exploiting to the fullest the natural resources and technologies available in this country. We Americans must reduce our dependence for energy upon - and transfers of national wealth to - enemies of this country.

c Borders secure against penetration by terrorists, narco-traffickers or others seeking to enter the United States illegally. Aliens who have violated immigration laws should not be rewarded with the privileges of citizenship.

c A foreign policy that supports our allies and opposes our adversaries. It should be clearly preferable to be a friend of the United States, not its enemy.

The further good news out of Iowa is that, when taken together with Mrs. Bachmann’s plurality of votes, those given to other candidates whose governing philosophy tracks with peace through strength - third-place (and now former candidate) Tim Pawlenty, fourth-place Rick Santorum and fifth-place Herman Cain, the take-away for Republicans should be clear: Voters in America are looking for leadership qualities in their next president that will keep them safe as well as help curb the deficit and create jobs.

Two contenders who did not compete in the Iowa straw vote - Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney - appear to be positioning themselves on the right side of how to manage the national security portfolio as well. Mr. Perry is touting his service as an Air Force pilot and taking counsel from advisers deeply imbued with the Reagan philosophy.

For his part, Mr. Romney staked out a position last year strongly opposing the defective New START pact with Russia. Unfortunately, that accord was subsequently - and scandalously - approved by the Senate during its lame-duck session. Still, the Romney critique about the treaty’s unequal terms, unverifiability and negative implications for U.S. missile defense options tracked with conservative national security thinking. It also is being vindicated by Vladimir Putin’s conduct with respect to Russia’s nuclear buildup and its obstructionism toward our anti-missile systems.

To be sure, there is some significant percentage of the electorate, including its Republican subset, that finds appealing the isolationist, come-home-America, use-defense-spending-as-the-billpayer-for-other-priorities platform of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. That unabashed champion of what might be called the hope-for-peace-despite-U.S.-weakness strategy came in second in the Iowa straw poll.

Such sentiments among the libertarian right track with those of like mind on the radical left, at least with respect to hollowing out the military. As a result, the nation’s ability to maintain the strength that history has taught is necessary to preserve the peace will be up for grabs in November 2012.

How it will all play out may depend critically on what happens internationally in the meantime, as enemies of this country take stock - and perhaps take action - in the face of what they rightly perceive to be declining American power and resolve under President Obama.

If we are to avoid a far more dangerous international environment for Americans and their interests in the future, we must elect a president next year who has what it takes to pursue peace through strength. Let us hope that what began in Iowa this weekend is the precursor to such a necessary course correction.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program “Secure Freedom Radio,” heard in Washington weekdays at 9 p.m. on WRC-AM 1260.


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