Foreign and security policy experts discussed the state of the U.S. military and called for more decisive leadership in a dangerous world at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday.
The event took place as President Barack Obama simultaneously explained his national security policy goals during a commencement speech at West Point.
Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry (R., Texas) opened Wednesday’s event, primarily addressing the need for robust leadership amid growing threats to national security.
He said among the threats facing the United States, none have been handled with a firm footing by the president.
“There is never any substitute for presidential leadership on matters of national security, and when it is lacking, American security suffers,” Thornberry said.
The congressman argued that the president’s timidity in such affairs has decreased the nation’s credibility on the international stage, saying growing powers such as Russia and China have been free to act without fear of American intervention.
“Friends and allies and other countries that are not necessarily friends and allies are watching very carefully whether the United States keeps its commitments and means what it says,” he said.
Robert Zarate with the Foreign Policy Initiative and Heritage Foundation fellow Kim R. Holmes followed Thornberry’s statements with comparisons between modern conflicts and the events that led to the first Word War.
Holmes said that while history is not perpetuating itself in modern events, it does “rhyme” with them. He said Germany’s mentality following WWI was that it had not really lost the war, a feeling Holmes says could be the mentality of Afghan al Qaeda terrorist groups once U.S. forces have pulled out.
Obama said during his West Point speech that while al Qaeda has been decentralized, there is still a need to confront the threat it poses.
“We need a strategy that matches this diffuse threat; one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military thin, or stir up local resentments.”