The military keeps us free (Doran Hopkins – April 13, 2018)

The military budget. Don’t leave me now. Give me a couple of minutes, folks, and I hope it will be worth your time.

From biblical times to the Roman Empire, the Soviet Union, Hitler’s WWII, the strong have always preyed upon the weak. Think currently about the Russian Federation, China and North Korea. They will find a weak nation and exploit it. They are trying to exploit us now. Think about the Ukraine, cyberspace, elections and nuclear weapons.

George Washington, in his First Annual Message to Congress, told the members that “providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”

Our Constitution laid out only a few responsibilities for our central government. Among them: “To raise and support Armies… To provide and maintain a Navy… To provide for calling forth the Militia…”

Our young nation did not have a large standing army. However, in the early 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt (as assistant secretary of the navy and later president) saw the need of a strong navy to protect our commercial shipping, our coastlines and our territorial possessions. Traditionally our army was weak. We were not ready for WWI, WWII or the Korean War. Kaisers, dictators and commissars hit us hard when they perceived our weakness. North Korea is now probing us by threatening a nuclear attack on Guam, Hawaii or our western coastal cities. They want to unify South Korea under their brutal family dictatorship and end American support of the democracy in the south.

The Chinese are now probing for weakness. They are building sea bases in the western Pacific to control shipping lanes and constrain the navigation of our navy. They are using the wealth they are taking from us to build an air force to match or exceed ours.

The Russian Federation has resumed nuclear bomber flights from Russian bases to Alaskan and Canadian territorial limits to probe our defenses.

Since the attack on the Twin Towers of New York City and the Pentagon in 2001, the people of the United States have supported a strong military. However, there is a small minority who constantly misrepresent the actual military budget. To promote their entitlement programs, which were not identified in the Constitution of 1789, they have led the American people to believe that the military budget is a largest part of the overall budget. It is not.

For the fiscal year budget of 2015, which is the most recent data available, health care was the largest expenditure at 28 percent and Social Security was 25.3 percent of the federal budget. This was followed by defense/homeland security at 16.2 percent of the budget, according to Politifact. The Congressional Budget Office has defense spending at only 3.2 percent of the gross domestic product.

The military budget also affects us here in Eastern Oregon. Those who are sending their children or grandchildren to one of our military services don’t want second-rate training for them at boot camp or at a technical course. They don’t want second-rate equipment. They don’t want second-rate leadership from sergeants or officers. They expect a strong military that mirrors the best at Lexington and Concord, Iwo Jima, the Battle of the Bulge, the Chosin Reservoir, la Drang and the Navy SEAL attack on Osama Bin Laden.

Without a strong national military, we are very vulnerable to becoming a secondary power and losing our place in the world of nations. Defending the nation should be priority one. Unless we want to suffer another Pearl Harbor, 9/11 or worse, Congress must continue to write strong military budgets. Is our military perfect? No. But it is in danger of no longer being the best in the world. We can’t afford anything less.

America certainly has the ability to preserve its global influence in both hemispheres of the world for decades to come. The question is whether we are willing to support a military that will keep us free.

Ronald Reagan, in a 1964 speech called “A Time for Choosing,” laid out the case of a Cuban who had escaped from the Castro communist dictatorship. The Cuban made the point that he had a place to escape to: America. Where will Americans escape to?