Aboard a decommissioned World War II-era battleship here, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz unveiled a sweeping plan to rebuild the U.S. armed forces, arguing that the military “has fallen to the bottom” of President Obama’s priority list.
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“If there is a silver lining in the Obama-Clinton foreign policy debacle, it is that now we know what a world without America would start to look like,” the Texas senator said. “Far more dangerous and beholden to terrorists and criminal regimes.”
Less than a week before the South Carolina primary, the Texas senator offered his ideas for expanding the size of the military, in both equipment and personnel, bolstering bases, updating technology and improving services for veterans. His guiding principle, he said, would be simple: “more tooth, less tail.”
“Starting next year our sailors won’t be on their knees with their hands on their heads,” Cruz said referring to the U.S. sailors who were held in Iranian custody after their ship entered that country’s waters. “Our secretary of state will not be apologizing and thanking their Iranian captors. Instead, they will be standing on the decks of the mightiest ships the world has ever known with their heads held high, confident that the great country that they volunteered to serve has their back."
Cruz called for an increase in the active duty military force to 1.4 million in order to be prepared for the "possibility of multiple, near-simultaneous conflicts” on the world stage. He also promised to review the Marine Corps' request "for an exemption from the policy requiring women to serve in combat positions.”
He also expressed his belief that women should not be drafted into the combat roles in the military.
“After seven years of neglect,” he said, “it is time for America to once again prioritize a strong, advanced and robust military.”
Another theme emerged throughout his remarks: An end to “political correctness” in military matters.
“The last thing any commander should need to worry about is the grades he is getting from some plush-bottomed Pentagon bureaucrat for political correctness or social experiments or providing gluten-free MREs,” he said of ready-to-eat meals . “If I am elected president, one of my first orders to the secretary of defense will be to restore the U.S. military’s combat ethos.”
As he campaigns all week in South Carolina, Cruz, 45, has been fending off scathing attacks from his rivals, particularly Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio. And although his speech largely focused on policy rather than the skirmishes of the Republican Party nominating contest, he offered a nod to Palmetto State.
“I am grateful that South Carolina works to provide a wonderful home to our veterans, and even more so now under Governor [Nikki] Haley’s leadership,” he said. “It’s time our national programs match that excellence.”