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Mike Rogers: 'A Strong America is a Source of Pride and a Force for Good in the World'

2:33 PM, Sep 16, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Reagan sought to restore America’s place in the world, and pushed the United States to actively oppose Communism and support our allies in that confrontation.  He stressed that we be clear-headed about the threats we face, and proud of American strength and exceptionalism.  He stressed that with our power and force we strive ultimately for the preservation of freedom and liberty. And he pushed a bigger defense budget so we could best protect the nation and its interests around the world. 

I believe we must have a comprehensive view of the threats in the world, and a principled view of the sources and proper uses of American strength and power.  So we must not lose sight of the geopolitical conditions that we face. 

Of course, the threat of Al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups still exists.  China continues its rise.  Iran and North Korea continue their efforts to become nuclear states. And while the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing a significant period of change, the future stability of the region is not without doubt.   We hope that this period will bring extraordinary advancements in freedom and stability for the region.  But we must not ignore the new challenges that this change may bring.  And we must do what we can to help those countries become more stable and free, not more autocratic.

President Reagan eloquently stated those principles. America cannot be passive in the world.  The world is a better place with strong American leadership.  We cannot lead from behind; we cannot sit back and rely on the power of our rhetoric alone to encourage peace and prosperity in the world.  We need the national will to engage both the threats and the opportunities we face.   

We must have the strength of mind and clarity to know our enemies and understand their goals.  The world remains a dangerous and uncertain place.  Ignoring these threats, or refusing to confront them, will not make them go away.  It will only make our opponents stronger and more likely to succeed.  But understanding the threats we face is only one element of a strong national defense.  We must be prepared to confront those threats. 

Future Threats

As I said, America must continue to remain vigilant in a threatening and uncertain world.  And we must keep our attention and resources focused on more than just the most immediate threats.  China requires our attention.  Since 1989, official Chinese defense spending has increased by nearly 13% each year.  Although the actual Chinese defense budget is unknown and kept secret, we suspect that they are spending hundreds of billions of dollars in recent years.  That investment includes a build-up of conventional and unconventional military capabilities across the board – in land, sea, space, and cyberspace, China is investing and growing.

In addition to its military growth, China obviously maintains an important economic position in the world.  It is the world's second largest economy after the United States and has maintained average growth rates of over 10% for the past 30 years. It also holds over one quarter of the U.S. debt offered to the public. 

Much has been written and said about the rise of China to superpower status.  I don’t wish to provide a comprehensive answer to the China question – whether we ought to see our relationship as a partnership or one as adversaries.  Much will depend on what the Chinese do, and what happens inside their institutions. 

What I do believe is that we must be prepared for the potential threat that a rising China poses.  We must recognize the changing nature of the geopolitical regime and give ourselves options in the future.  We must build and maintain healthy, clear alliances.   We must keep a strong American presence in the region.   We must understand the Chinese ambitions, intentions, and capabilities, and how they see their future. 

China will only surpass us if we let them.  But it doesn’t have to happen.  If we continue our security investments; if we maintain our leadership around the world; if we allow our market-based economy to flourish once again, China won’t surpass us.  As Condolezza Rice recently said: “Too many people ask ‘when’ China will surpass us; but we should be asking ‘if.’” 

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