So what really is the greatest threat to our national security?

Over the weekend, former Defense secretary Robert Gates said that the biggest threat to our national security is not a foreign geopolitical foe but the dysfunction of Washington D.C.

He told CBS’ “Face the Nation”:

I think the greatest national security threat to this country at this point is the two square miles that encompasses the Capitol building and the White House. If we can’t get some of our problems solved here at home, if we can’t get our finances in a more ordered fashion, if we can’t begin to tackle some of the internal issues that we have, if we can’t get some compromises on the Hill that move the country forward, then I think these foreign threats recede significantly into, as far as being a risk to the well-being and the future of this country. I think that other countries are watching us very carefully.

Gates’ comments aren’t completely out of touch.  Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said that our national debt is the greatest threat facing America today.  Our outrageous debt is, no doubt, one of the byproducts of Washington’s dysfunction.

However, not everyone shares this view.  Defense officials cite “cyberattacks” as the greatest threat, outranking “terrorism” by twenty percent.  The American people would agree that cyberattacks are a threat, topped only by Islamic extremist groups like al Qaeda.  Rounding out the top three is Iran’s nuclear program, according to recent polling by the Pew Research Center.

Did you know that President Obama recently cited “freedom of religion” as an important matter to our national security?  But then former Ambassador John Bolton says Obama himself is the greatest threat to our national security.

National security – defending and maintaining the survival of the state – is a non-optional function of the federal government as outlined in our Constitution.  For all the things government has decided to do, outside the bounds of the Constitution, national security and defense are actually mandated by our founding laws.

But if we can’t even agree on our biggest threat, how are we supposed to adequately defend against it?

The Defense Department says its core national interests are the following: “defeating al Qaeda and its affiliates and succeeding in current conflicts; deterring and defeating aggression by adversaries, including those seeking to deny our power projection; countering weapons of mass destruction; effectively operating in cyperspace, space, and across all domains; maintaining a safe and effective nuclear deterrent; and protecting the homeland.”

While I agree that cyberattacks, in particular, are a big threat to our national security, our greatest threat may actually be of our own doing.

I understand and agree with Admiral Mullen that our national debt could prove to be our Achilles Heel.  With debt comes obligation to pay, therefore making us beholden to whomever owns that debt.  At any moment, the Chinese could choose to pull the rug out from under us.  Why would we willingly choose to put ourselves in that position?

We put ourselves in that position precisely for the reason cited by Robert Gates and that is dysfunction.  At the heart of this dysfunction is our inability to agree on the proper role of government.  Our views on the proper size and role of government have become so polarized that “dysfunction” now constitutes our inability to meet in the middle.

Democrats like Nancy Pelosi believe that we do not have a spending problem.  In my household, spending money you don’t have and accumulating debt you may never be able to pay back is kind of a problem.  But maybe I’m old school.  Meanwhile, people like Admiral Mullen are saying that spending, which is leads to debt, is the greatest threat to national security.

While Republicans may talk a good game, their actions haven’t produced the desired results of fiscal restraint.  Both parties remain willing to sell their grandchildren down the river for immediate gain and power.  They are establishing a future for them with more risk than ever before.

The dysfunction in Washington emanates from our inability to even agree on our core values, principles and therefore our priorities.  This absolutely poses the greatest threat, because any outside threat is meaningless if we don’t have a functioning country to protect.


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