Commentary: Want to combat China? Spend more on defense

China’s ambitions to wage war on our allies must be stopped.

U.S. Navy/Facebook

Why do Democrats spend federal dollars everywhere, except where it keeps America safe? It’s long been the case that austerity is a foreign concept to the political left — unless it comes to national defense.

I am pleased that, in theory, President Joe Biden wants to be tough on communist China. I am also glad, as I encouraged him last week, Biden pushed reticent Europeans at the G-7 summit into releasing a communique critical of Beijing. He also claims he wants to counter China’s neo-imperialist Belt and Road Initiative. That’s welcome news, especially if there’s force behind the words.

But how can we pursue these counter actions without a defense budget reflecting the seriousness of the growing challenges from rogue actors?

The incoherence — I’d prefer calling it malfeasance — of spending $6 trillion on bridges, fiscally imprudent schools, and electric cars but going flat on defense is troubling.

In our new Cold War with China, there are areas of advanced technology, like weapons systems for the Navy and Air Force, where we need to invest. One area is semiconductors, since China’s efforts to overtake the U.S. in semiconductor technology is an economic and security threat. Earlier this year, Biden said “we have underinvested in production, while other countries have learned from our example and increased their investments in the industry.”

The $250 billion Senate bill earlier this month — aimed at countering China’s technological ambitions — provides $52 billion to fund semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing initiatives.

Needless to say, threats from China don’t necessarily involve infrastructure spending or so-called clean-energy aspirations.

China is growing its annual defense spending by more than six percent annually; its navy has surpassed the United States as the largest on earth. China is ready to double its nuclear weapons over the next decade and could invade Taiwan in the next few years. China’s ambitions to wage war on our allies must be stopped.

The Biden administration clearly should invest in a stronger military, yet his recent defense budget represents an increase of fewer than two percent, which won’t even keep up with soaring inflation.

“We’re going to have to have a much larger fleet than we have today, if we’re serious about great power competition and deterring great power war, and if we’re serious about dominant capability over something like China or some other power that has significant capability,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley recently told the U.S. Naval Institute.

The general called for up to a five percent increase in the budget but acknowledged the implausibility. Milley also said acquiring a 500-plus-ship Navy in the next 25 years is “an aspiration.” We currently have about 300.

We can’t debate defense spending in a vacuum because it is mostly a reaction to other countries’ ambitions. That may not alarm Bernie Sanders, but it should.

American foreign policy needs creativity to avoid conflict. Showing strength is imperative because weakness is provocative. Adversaries around the world — in China, Iran and North Korea, not to mention al Qaeda and ISIS — are watching.

For example, the Soviets exploited Jimmy Carter’s strategic naiveté late in his presidential term and invaded Afghanistan a month before Ronald Reagan took the oval office. Reagan built up defense spending upon inauguration by sending surface-to-air stinger missiles to Afghan allies, while deploying cruise and ballistic missiles to Great Britain, Italy, and West Germany to counter Soviet threats.

The recent G7 summit should have been a coalition of democracies against autocracy, yet some — like Germany because of their trade and investment deals with Beijing — have their hands in the pockets of autocrats, thus they capitulate.

“Many of our European allies are mercantilist before they are lovers of democracy,” an expert told Alpha News. “That has long been the case and will continue so long as we protect them. The Biden administration publicly said they wanted a condemnation of China’s use of Uighur slave labor in the communique and couldn’t get it.”

While Reagan and both Bushes met foreign policy challenges — and Donald Trump did his best — Barack Obama too often saw the world as he wished, not how it is. Is Biden content to preside over the aging of our military at this vital time, or will he commit himself to meet the threat?