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Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

Bob King believes America should return to speaking softly and carrying a big stick. Having an unbeatable capability to defend ourselves, while promoting free trade and avoiding unnecessarily provoking others in the world, is the path to peace.

In my lifetime, Republicans generally haven't known how to speak softly, and Democrats haven't known how to carry a big stick. More recently that distinction has become muddled.

We have too many in both parties wanting to advance US interests through the threat of force. Since 9/11/2001 it has sometimes seemed there hasn't been a war our leaders didn't claim to involve vital US interests.  And today we are seeing how proxy wars in Ukraine and the Middle East are triggering predictable partisan posturing -- and costing US taxpayers billions of dollars.

Let's have a policy of deterrence, not of provocation. Our mission should be to live peacefully in a world with many nations with their own national interests. We shouldn't be seeking an empire to control, or to tell other nations how they should govern themselves. Let's engage them diplomatically and with free trade, avoiding unnecessary provocations, yet having the unquestioned capacity to defend our vital interests. These interests are sea-lanes and the skies above them for free international commerce; the security of our North American, Central American and Caribbean neighbors; and a balance of power in other parts of the world that deters aggression.

We should not position US troops in harm's way to serve as tripwires. Too often we have forward-deployed troops whose mission is to be overrun and killed, thus ensuring we are dragged into a war. Ask a veteran if he or she supports our troops being used like that!

We should be slow to anger, but if despite our desire to live in peace we are attacked, then our response should be geometric, not proportional. If we are going to fire a shot in anger, it should be sized to be the last shot in the battle.  Every time.

It would be foolish and impractical to precipitously pull out of existing commitments.  But we must stop reflexively adding to such commitments, and we must accelerate the transfer of more of the burden of self-defense -- especially ground troop commitments -- onto allies who have frankly allowed us to do the heavy lifting for far too long.

The major geopolitical threat to US interests is not Russia. It is China. Without abandoning our NATO commitments, we need to shift the primary burden of containing Russia to our European allies, while we shift our principal attention to the situation unfolding in the western Pacific.

Our goal with China should be peaceful cooperation and trade.  Clearly China's leadership has behaved irresponsibly on a number of global matters. We need to curb this with free market principles ... not with gunboat diplomacy. China will respond to changes in global investment flows if it is not seen as a reliable trading partner.

We cannot make the same mistakes with Taiwan as we did with Ukraine. It is debatable whether Taiwan is a vital interest to the US. It is NOT debatable whether China sees it as a vital interest. We must give nuclear-armed adversaries due respect in their immediate backyards.  We can sell Taiwan arms of a defensive nature that would make a Chinese invasion more costly, sure.  We can work with allies like Japan, Korea and Australia to establish a balance of power in the western Pacific that allows for the free flow of vital goods in Asian shipping lanes. But fundamentally, China and Taiwan have to resolve their own situation, and our most vital interest is that this is accomplished peacefully.

Businesses need to prepare their supply chains for all eventualities as soon as possible, and through the magic of capitalism, they are already doing so. Once their excessive reliance on China has diminished, then we can approach the China/Taiwan question as something less than a vital interest worthy of risking global thermonuclear war.  

Failure to retain our energy independence is a seriously stupid self-inflicted wound.  Our recent over-involvement in wars around the world has been fueled at least in part by our chronic dependence on foreign-sourced energy. This is well within our power to correct, and to do so in far more environmentally responsible ways than by importing energy from countries like Venezuela, who care not one whit for the environment.

Paid for by Bob King for Texas-21
Kristin Abel, Treasurer
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