One of the most essential qualities in the Republican presidential nominee for the 2016 election will be a backbone. That and a little knowledge of foreign policy would be nice. With the unrest in the Middle East, the tragic events that occurred in Paris last Friday evening, and the ongoing threat of ISIS, it should be apparent to everyone that our national security is of critical importance at this time.
Under President Obama, we have seen a regress in the image that we project to our allies and our adversaries alike; no one believes in us anymore; we do not stand for anything anymore. Our allies, like Israel, cannot trust us to have their back, and our enemies do not fear repercussion from us. Not a great combination.
To really understand the effect of a strong commander in chief, we can look back at one of the greatest, President Reagan. In 1979, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, Islamic revolutionaries kidnapped sixty Americans from the United States embassy in Tehran. They held them hostage for 444 days, releasing them minutes after Ronald Reagan took the oath of office as the 40th President of the United States. Reagan’s intention to strengthen our military, his belief in American exceptionalism, his conviction of peace through strength, and his utter contempt for totalitarianism in all its forms, put the world on notice.
Reagan’s mental toughness and negotiation skills faced their first big challenge in the spring of 1981. Still recovering from the assassination attempt, President Reagan was notified of PATCO’s (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) intention to see a 100 percent pay increase or go on strike, effectively grounding all commercial flights and even more importantly, posing a national security threat to the country by leaving the AWACS planes that patrolled our air space unable to fly. Reagan was a union man himself, and he was sympathetic to their desire for a pay increase commensurate with the increased pressures of their job. In addition, PATCO was one of the few unions that had supported Reagan’s candidacy, so he tried to negotiate a more reasonable settlement with them, but to no avail. It is illegal for a federal employee to go on strike, and each member of PATCO signed an affidavit stating they would not strike, and yet seventy percent of them still walked off the job. Reagan refused to accept it. Appearing in the Rose Garden, he announced to the press that if the strikers did not return to work within 48 hours, they would be fired, and they would not be rehired. The union thought he was bluffing.
The story had international implications, and everyone was watching, including the Russians. Britain backed President Reagan, France pressured him to make a deal, and Canada shut down Gander airport in a show of solidarity with the strikers. Reagan sent word to them through his transportation secretary Drew Lewis that if they did not reopen the airport within two hours, the U S would never land there again. They reopened.
After putting together a temporary air control system using a combination of the controllers who remained on the job, the FAA and the Defense department, Reagan stood his ground. After 48 hours, over 11,000 air traffic controllers lost their jobs. President Reagan was heartbroken over the effect it would have on the families, but he knew that no American president could tolerate an illegal strike. The world found out that Reagan’s toughness was not just empty rhetoric.
When Mu’ammar Qadhafi masterminded a 1986 bombing in Berlin, which resulted in the death of an American service member, and the injury of 63 others, Reagan ordered air strikes on key Libyan targets. He later addressed the nation, saying, “When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in this world… we will respond so long as I’m in this Oval Office,” and to terrorist leaders around the world he said, “He [Qadhafi] counted on America to be passive. He counted wrong” (Reagan, “Speaking” 288). With that speech, Reagan imposed his views upon the world and he let the country know that he would not succumb to any foreign national threat.
Fast forward to 2012, when President Obama said this about the use of chemical weapons by Syria, “We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly.” Guess what? Bashar al-Assad has brazenly challenged President Obama’s red line with repeated attacks over the last few years, all without any action by the United States. Of course, Obama has backtracked on his “red-line” comment, saying it was not “his” red line, but the “world’s” red line.
A year and a half ago, Obama referred to ISIS as the “jayvee” team. At a time when they were more contained, and easier to eliminate, Obama downplayed them as a real threat. We all know how that has worked out, with ISIS controlling huge swaths of Syria and Iraq, and committing mass executions of Christians, or anyone else who does not support Islam. Of course, President Obama later claimed that he was not referring specifically to ISIS, but to random terrorist sects in the area, despite the fact that he was responding to a question about a terrorist group that had just taken over Fallujah, which was in fact ISIS.
After ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris this last Friday, France began air strikes in retaliation against them; at least France is taking a stand against evil. Our president cannot even utter the words “radical Islam”, or “Muslim terrorists”. The day before the attacks in Paris, Obama said in an interview with George Stephanopolous, that ISIS is not gaining strength, that we have “contained them”. I do not believe the citizens of France would agree with him.