June 26, 2019

Democrats Face a Defense Spending Conundrum

By Loren DeJonge Schulman

On Wednesday and Thursday, 20 of the two dozen contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination will converge on stage in Miami to make their case to the American people. As candidates navigate the political reality show, they will face two major pressures: to differentiate themselves from the crowd of fellow travelers and to align on virtuous moral stands that set them apart from the sitting president.

Foreign-policy and defense wonks tend to bemoan the lack of emphasis on their specialties during election season while panicking about the results these two priorities incentivize. Standing out in foreign policy and defense typically demands a bold step away from the safe, technocratic “Blob,” as Obama administration advisor Ben Rhodes called the Washington foreign-policy establishment. And aligning against Trump means pressing to reverse his policies cold turkey. Foreign-policy experts tend to get spooked by these approaches because they seem to ignore complicated nuances.

Black-and-white calls to end wars, blow up budgets, close detention centers, or sign idealistic agreements have routinely run into the brick walls of entrenched realities that stand in the way of election promises. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all campaigned on some variation of rolling back the tides of war, nation building, and intervention. Each entered into, stayed in, or expanded conflicts, and none achieved the defense budget savings or Defense Department reforms they’d sought and promised.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

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