Morning Bell: Why We Provide for the Common Defense

Conn Carroll /

In a luncheon speech to American business executives in which he urged the United States to recognize China’s claims over Tibet and Taiwan, Chinese President Hu Jintao said yesterday: “We do not engage in an arms race, we are not a military threat to any country. China will never seek to dominate or pursue an expansionist policy.” We certainly hope this is true. But our leaders must do more than just hope. As President George Washington asserted in his First Annual Message, the “most effectual means of preserving peace” is “to be prepared for war.”

This week we have documented China’s rapid rise in four key domains of potential conflict: air, sea, space, and the Internet. Over the past decade, in each of these domains, Chinese capabilities have significantly increased while ours have either stagnated or declined. A continuation of this trend is not a recipe for lasting security. In the latest installment of The Heritage Foundation’s Understanding America series, National Security Studies Research Fellow Mackenzie Eaglen explains why this neglect is antithetical to the Founders’ vision for peace:

The Founders realized that only an organized and professional military could respond to both domestic and foreign threats. That is why they authorized the building of forts, the creation of the U.S. Navy, and the founding of West Point. … America’s Founders believed that peace through strength is preferable—militarily, financially, and morally—to allowing war to come through weakness. That is why, over two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson advised George Washington that “the power of making war often prevents it.” In providing for the common defense, the goal of the Founders was to build a military sufficiently powerful and capable that America’s enemies preferred not to challenge it.