Carafano: National security takes good defense, not merely offense 

Wrigley Field was frozen. You could count the degrees on one hand. In Fahrenheit!

The New York Giants didn’t care. They were the league’s powerhouse, averaging 32 points a game. The NFL Championship was theirs to lose.

They lost.

Chicago shut out the Giants’ high-scoring offense in the second half and won 14-10. The team ball went to the Bears’ defensive coordinator, George Allen.

“It is exceedingly rare,” the younger George Allen wrote in his new book, “What Washington Can Learn from the World of Sport,” “that an assistant coach — particularly a defensive coach — is honored in this way after a championship game. But it was fitting. And it really meant a great deal to my dad and ... to me.”

The former U.S. senator offers up a cavalcade of such sports memories to explain why a lot of what our government does today does not make much sense. The 1963 Giants-Bears title game leads off a chapter on national security, “Defense Wins Championships.”

Of course, national security challenges are not the same as sports challenges. The former is a matter of life and death. Moreover, sports have rules. People like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad play by their own rules.

But sports and national security are both competitions — a struggle of action and counteraction between determined foes. Every strategy has a mix of offense and defense. And be it on the football field or the field of battle, defense is often the lesser appreciated of the two. That’s why Allen’s father was so surprised and honored when his half-frozen players handed him the symbol of victory.

Truth is, winning without defense is unthinkable.

In his book, Allen promotes a strategy of “peace through strength.” Not surprisingly, his discussion starts not with offensive weaponry, but with missile defense.

An enemy able to hit the American homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile has a get-out-of-jail-free card. No matter how great or small their beef with the United States, they can raise the threat of a mushroom-cloud exchange. No American president wants to take that bet. Once armed with nuclear weapons, enemies increasingly ignore red lines, red flags and all other warnings.

Allen’s book is extremely timely. It stands in sharp contrast to the White House’s recently released National Security Strategy, which looks to assure peace through any number of means — except strength. To “defend” America, President Barack Obama prescribes a potion consisting of greater reliance on international institutions, more diplomacy (i.e., substituting soft power for hard power), and a more humble and restrained U.S. presence in the world. The centerpiece of the White House strategy is the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The problem is, other teams aren’t interested in following Obama’s playbook. More and more nations are rushing to field their own nuclear teams. North Korea is already there, and Iran is getting close.

“As any defensive coach knows,” Allen wrote, “You don’t stop an offense by being passive.”

The U.S. needs to get active on missile defense. Unfortunately, the National Security Strategy envisions stopping the long bomb with only humility, tact and international fan support.

James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at The Heritage Foundation.

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