In our Declaration of Independence, it says — we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights — among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And if we fail to protect the first of these rights, we fail to protect them all. Because without your life, there is no other safeguard that will matter. And that is why national security is, and must remain, America’s number-one priority.
And we have to do a better job in supporting our men and women on this present 21st century battlefield. That means not just with bumper stickers, but with proper funding and supplies, with assistance for their families, with high-quality healthcare when they’re injured, and with good-paying jobs for them when they come home, when their tours of duty are complete. Because an 11.7 percent unemployment rate for our veterans is unacceptable. It is reprehensible, and we should not allow that to happen.
It is easy in the aftermath of conflict periods to become complacent, to lose sight of the reason for investing in our troops. And we have seen this play out in our history. We have seen it after the World Wars. We saw it after the Cold War. And we’re again seeing it today. We spend and spend as the wars rage on, and then watch as our military atrophies for the lack of funding as soon as they’re over. We cannot continue with the practice that I call the peaks and valleys of military readiness, where we try to ramp up for an operation and then, as soon as we believe that that operation’s complete, we look to the military to be the bill-payers for the fiscal irresponsibility of this nation. And we put their readiness and their preparedness at stake. That type of thinking cannot be any more misguided.
The bottom line is this — if you wait until your forces are called upon to fight before you think about their needs, then the war is already over. You’ve already lost it. Our servicemen and -women are the very embodiment of everything that’s right about America. And after 22 years of serving beside them, after having a father who served in World War II, an older brother who served in Vietnam, and a nephew who is serving now, I think I know a little bit about the steel and the spines of the American fighting man and woman.
The young people who comprise the armed forces of the United States are, without a doubt, today the strongest and most competent soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coastguardsmen the world has ever known. They serve willingly and with valor. And they are imminently deserving of our gratitude and our support. As long as we are faithful to the cause and to those who fight it, as long as we recognize what we are up against and resolve that we will not be defeated, there’s no doubt in my mind — and should not be any doubt in any of your minds — that we will come out on top. Because there’s a resiliency in the American fighting spirit that cannot be broken, even in the face of the impossible.
We are a nation that was forged in the heat of a revolution, that has truly been through hell and back, that has been through civil wars, world wars, regional combat conflicts. But the flame of our fighting spirit continues to burn as bright as ever. Even through the darkest days and the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, we somehow rose to that challenge. And that is why I have great faith in our ability to weather any storm. Because that is, after all, the American way.
But for some, that means just weapons and ammunition. But what I have to tell you today — it means strategic foresight. American troops, when you study our history, have never lost at the tactical level on the ground. But if we do not have leaders that can provide for them well thought-out objectives, they can win every single battle, but we will still lose the war in the end. For those who served in Vietnam, they can tell you that is exactly what happened.
So let me ask you a question — when was the last time you heard anyone, any leader, over the past 10 years or so, say — these are our strategic objectives as we prosecute this war? War on terror is a horrible misnomer. Terror is a tactic. A nation cannot fight a tactic. But yet, we are [ruttle a ship]. Because when you read the most recent national security strategy coming out of the Obama Administration, it talks more about global warming, and it never mentions radical Islamism, jihadism or violent Muslim extremism. It wants our soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines to fight the weather.
See, the problem is you haven’t heard that. You haven’t heard anyone talk about this new 21st century battlefield, which is so different from the battlefield that I participated on in 1991 as a young captain in Desert Shield-Desert Storm. We have to recognize the emergence of the non-state, non-uniform belligerent that does not respect borders and boundaries. We have to understand that we must move away from a Cold War-era forward-deployed military, and get back toward a power projection military that can go into all of these geographic areas of responsibility and deny the enemy sanctuary, to cut off his flow of men, material, resources and supplies. It means that we have to go back to those numbers that I gave you first and foremost.
And we’ve got to do something that we have not done since the collapse of the Soviet Union. We’ve got to go geographic area of responsibility by geographic area of responsibility, and look at the requirements that are necessary based upon an analysis of the enemy and an intelligence assessment that sets our capability and our capacity for the next 20 to 30 years.
But I can tell you, that’s not what happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union. When you read things like Francis Fukuyama, who wrote that this is the end of the world as we know it in all type of ideological conflict — he had it absolutely wrong. If you had instead read Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” — Huntington had it right. But yet, once again, we saw the military as the bill-payer of such things such as midnight basketball.
We have to get away from nation-building and occupation-style warfare, and understand that it’s the strategic mobility and maneuverability that is the strength of these great United States of America and our military, so that we can then be in those places where the enemy is not suspecting us to be, and we can strike him quickly, and we can pull back. On this modern-day battlefield, we don’t have any need to think that it’s our responsibility to rebuild. Because that’s not what this enemy understands nor respects. They understand strength, they understand you going in, they understand you kicking his tail and then being ready to kick his tail again. That is what strategic-level thinkers need to be considering.
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