Rep.-Elect Allen West: ‘You Have to’ Cut Defense; New Strategy Needed for Afghanistan

By Jenny Schlesinger

Nov 16, 2010 1:59pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: The new class of GOP House freshmen is coming to Washington vowing to rethink government spending even in areas that Republicans have long held sacred – and with an eye toward big changes on the national security front.  On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Rep.-elect Allen West, a retired US army lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told us that “you have to” subject Pentagon spending to cuts if the nation plans to seriously grapple with the budget deficit.  He also called for a new strategy in Afghanistan that focuses less on “nation-building” and more on confronting new threats.  “Nothing can be sacrosanct,” said West, R-Fla.  On Afghanistan, West said, “we have to look at how we can be successful on the ground and these combat theaters of operation. The 21st century battlefield is a totally different battlefield. We have to get away from occupation, nation-building style warfare. I think that our national security strategy should focus on denying the enemy sanctuary. Cyber warfare is going to become a huge part of this, the information operations aspect of it. And those are the type of things we have to look at.”  Based on his time as a military adviser in Afghanistan, West said, “I think we've lost focus on the enemy, and we've gotten too far focused on nation-building. And that is one of the critical things I want to look at.”  West said he’d be willing to accept the new leadership position created for a freshman member, but said he wasn’t interested in jumping into that race.  “One of the things about being a leader is you sit back and you assess. If people ask me to be, I would accept that position. But I'm not coming up here to try to throw myself into something,” he said.  He also said that while he’s pushing his party to stick to its principles, he wants to avoid a confrontation that would end in a government shutdown.  “We don't need to get into that sort of a food fight where we shut down government, but there are right and proper principles that sustain the economic growth of this country,” he said.  The new GOP majority needs to “show some positive indicators” in the first 90 to 120 days in power, West said, or could risk the same kind of voter backlash that swept Republicans out of power in 2006.  He also said a dust-up where he wound up reversing a decision to hire a conservative talk radio host as his chief of staff “wasn’t a controversy.”    “People on the liberal left ended up, in order to try to attack me, they went through Joyce Kaufman. You know, I was going to hire Joyce Kaufman, not as a talk radio host, but as a very brilliant political mind. Some of the things that she is able to ascertain and understand. She's been in South Florida politics for 20 plus years.”  “But I think that what you’re seeing right now is absolutely reprehensible. It's disgusting, the things that are being said about her. And it also shows the duplicitous hypocrisy that I do not want to tolerate.”  Watch the full interview with Rep.-elect Allen West HERE.  We also checked in with The Hotline’s Reid Wilson about the emerging contest for RNC chairman, plus the Republican support for a ban on earmarks – and whether that will make a difference on Capitol Hill. Watch the segment with Reid Wilson HERE.

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