Gov. Bobby Jindal: Obama has weakened the U.S. military

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal became the latest Republican to offer up a sweeping policy plan that could help anchor a 2016 presidential campaign.

Jindal on Monday outlined his alternative vision, that he says will save the American military from damage done by President Obama: spend more on defense.

"[Obama] leaves for the next president tools of hard power that have fallen into disrepair. Military strength should not be the primary means by which the United States executes its foreign policy. But it is the indispensable element that underpins the other tools," Jindal said during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C. He said he supports recommendations by AEI, a conservative think tank, to spend about 4 percent of America's gross domestic product on defense.

The plan - a few concrete details tucked deep into a long critique of the president - was developed for America Next, Jindal's nonprofit public policy think tank.

Jindal seeks to claim the legacy of former President Ronald Reagan, borrowing a line when he argues that, "Peace through strength costs infinitely less in American blood and treasure than does war precipitated by weakness."

He argued that more money will allow the United States to "rebuild the tools of military power" to create a force, "not to nation-build overseas, not as a police force or a Keynesian jobs program, but as a deterrent to our adversaries, and as a tool to eradicate threats to American lives and interests."

The bulk of the speech was dedicated to tearing apart Mr. Obama's actions over the past six years. Early on, Jindal listed the threats that have emerged in the last year alone including the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Russia's encroachment into Ukraine, crises in the Middle East and Israel, and Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

"For anyone with a degree of introspection, this would be a time to consider whether the ramifications of your ideas were leading the world to experience more chaos and less clarity. But that is not what President Obama has done," Jindal said. "He has not reconsidered whether his approach to leadership is perhaps a part of the reason that the world seems to be spinning off its axis. Instead, he once again views himself as a noble, deliberative thinker who takes his time and gets it right."

Jindal also sought to divide the blame between Mr. Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is mulling her own run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

"If only [Obama] had the help of a wise steady hand, a policy expert in dealing with foreign affairs, he'd have come up with better answers. But instead he just had Hillary Clinton," Jindal said. "Today, we are living with the consequences of the Obama-Clinton ideas when it comes to foreign, domestic, and defense policy."

He argued that the president pursued irresponsible cuts to the defense budget that went deeper than those proposed by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Jindal sees those cuts as pushing the American military into "an increasingly fragile condition" rather than building up military capabilities.

Jindal notes that the president's recommendations were "codified into the 2011 Budget Control Act," though in the speech he declined to criticize Republicans in the House of Representatives that agreed to that budget.

Later, during a Q&A portion, he said it was a "mistake" for congressional Republicans to accept the sequestration cuts, and said that they allowed bad policy to be put on the table for "political reasons."

He calls for a return to Gates' 2011 proposed budget, which he argues was developed with a real analysis of the threats America faces.

In order to ensure the money is spent wisely, he says there should be an audit of the Pentagon's books. And to preserve his claim of fiscal conservatism, Jindal advocates cutting costs in other parts of the government in order to free up more money for defense.

In particular, he promotes his health care plan, which he says would lower costs and fix inequities in the tax code.

He also says American energy supplies should be used "to help offset the ability of Russia and other nations to effectively blackmail our allies."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for