June 9, 2009 | Commentary on Federal Budget, National Security and Defense

What Scoop Jackson Knew

There may never be another Scoop. Once upon a time Washington had many leaders who put national security before their politics. Henry "Scoop" Jackson stood at the top of the class.

Serving in the Senate from 1953 to his death 30 years later, no one worked harder than the Democrat from Washington State to provide for the common defense. "His core convictions about foreign policy and national security affairs derived largely from the lessons of World War II," wrote biographer Robert G. Kaufman," the folly of isolationism and appeasement, the importance of democracies remaining militarily strong and standing against totalitarianism, and the need for the United States to accept and sustain its pivotal role as a world power."

These convictions often brought Jackson into conflict with other leaders of his own party. He bucked President Johnson, for example, to become one of the earliest congressional advocates of building missile defenses.

Of course, the Democrats could boast of many defense-savvy senators back then. Stuart Symington of Missouri was one. No wallflower he. As a freshman senator, Symington had shouted down Joe McCarthy in one of "Red-Baiter" Joe's televised hearings: "Let me tell you, Senator [McCarthy], that I'm not afraid of you. I will meet you anytime, anywhere."

Symington was a zealous advocate for the Air Force. Throughout his Congressional career, he also dedicated himself to building-up the U.S. nuclear deterrent against the Soviets.

It has been a long-time, however, since "hawks" roosted among the Democratic leaders in Washington. And these days, visionary national security leadership has been scarce on the Republican side as well.

Thus, the national security speech given last week at DC's Navy Memorial by former Massachusetts governor and presidential primary candidate Mitt Romney came as a breath of fresh air. At times it seemed as though Romney were channeling Scoop Jackson.

"Providence has blessed us and trusted us to safeguard liberty," Romney declared. "In a time of confusion at home and challenge abroad, let ours be the voice of clarity and good sense-confident in our cause, and faithful in the care of freedom."

Romney also did something no Democratic or Republican leader has done convincingly in recent memory: make a rationale, compelling case that now is not the time to be cutting back on defense spending.

"The right way to scale America's defense budget is to add up the requirements for each of our missions," he pointed out. "When I add up the demands of all these defense missions, I do not come up with budget cuts. As a simple matter of budget mathematics, we cannot fulfill our military missions without an increase of $50 billion per year in the modernization budget."

Romney then turned the budget guns on DC: "The current leadership in Washington is hardly in a position to complain about the cost of the defense budget. Over the last few months, it has passed measures that will add almost $4 trillion to the national debt.... None of that money was spent on increasing the defense modernization budget -- a failure that history will never understand or excuse."

Romney may be starting a trend. Newt Gingrich has scheduled a major national security speech for early July. These voices, however, are too few and far between. Any list of rising Republican stars shows few with a track record on national security issues. The Democratic bench is even emptier.

All this is troubling. The world does not become safer in turbulent times. In the decade ahead -- we will need more clear-headed leadership on national security issues -- not less.

Administration officials have paired back missile defense, promised to cut the nuclear arsenal, and cancelled next-generations weapons program... all based on the premise that they will negotiate a safer future for America.

But, what if that premise is wrong? Apologies may not disarm our enemies. UN resolutions may not dissuade them. And if the gutting of the Pentagon continues, we may be unable to stop them with force.

Two days ago we observed the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Republicans and Democrats should spend more time reflecting on the lessons to be learned from the storming of the Normandy beaches.

Leaders like Scoop Jackson knew those lessons by heart. They understood that the price of freedom is the willingness to defend it.

James Jay Carafano is Senior Research Fellow in national security policy at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

First Appeared in the Examiner