As I listened to the first GOP presidential debate of the 2016 election Thursday night, I couldn’t help but draw a contrast to the 1980 debates I watched as a young voter.

In that campaign, Reagan asked the country an important and powerful question: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” The American people answered that question by voting President Carter out of office. What followed was eight years of strong leadership by President Reagan that resulted in economic prosperity, the end of the Cold War and reestablishment of America as a super power.

 

I believe that in this increasingly dangerous world the question before us today is “Are you safer today than you were before?” Across the country, Americans overwhelmingly answer this question with a resounding “No.”  

Today the threat of Islamist extremism and other forms of evil seeking the destruction of Western civilization calls for a strong leader who espouses the qualities of President Reagan and President Kennedy, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  These men stood up to the great challenges of their times whether it be communism or fascism; and won.

As the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, I know firsthand that the threat landscape we face is the most dangerous in my lifetime.

America’s national security and foreign policy have never been more paramount in a presidential election.  A President’s greatest responsibility and highest Constitutional priority must be to provide for a “common defense” as Commander in Chief.  As the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, I know firsthand that the threat landscape we face is the most dangerous in my lifetime. 

President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s handling of the Arab Spring left in its wake failed states and power vacuums filled by terrorists.  The failure to achieve a Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq coupled with the political malfeasance of Prime Minister Maliki and the utter neglect by President Obama– who was more concerned about fulfilling his campaign pledge to withdraw from the region rather than paying attention to the region – helped lead to the creation of ISIS.

Today, Islamist extremism has spread like a wildfire and metastasized throughout North Africa, the Middle East and as far away as East Asia.  Our military and political policies look more like a strategy to contain our enemies rather than defeat and destroy them.  As a consequence, the radical Islamist ideology is only spreading and we are doing little to either stop it or counter its insidious narrative.

As this threat grows overseas, so too does the threat to the United States homeland.  The number of foreign fighters, including Americans, traveling to Syria, Iraq and Libya has grown exponentially.  Over the past year there have more U.S. based jihadist terror cases than in any year since 9/11.  

Gone are the days of Usama bin Laden’s caves and couriers.  Today we must contend with a new generation of terrorists who exploit social media to send directives to their followers in the United States.  Moving at the speed of broadband, more than 200,000 ISIS related tweets are generated each day, including instructions to kill Americans.  

Fortunately, we have stopped numerous plots and arrested over 60 ISIS followers in the United States – more than one each week.  But as we tragically saw in Chattanooga, with the killing of four Marines and one sailor, the terrorists only have to be successful once. 

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has reached a dangerous agreement with Iran, which appears to put Tehran on the path to a nuclear bomb, rather than dismantle its nuclear program.  As a consequence, more than $100 billion dollars in sanctions relief will flow to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and restrictions on its intercontinental ballistic missile program will be lifted.  Such a naïve policy realizes my greatest fear, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.  

The deal with Iran also elevates the dangerous relationship between Iran and Russia. Just yesterday, it was revealed that the Iranian General and leader of the Quds Force Qassem Soleimain, had defied a U.N. Security Council resolution by travelling to Moscow and meeting with Russian leaders. Soleimain is a terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers and only 10 days after the announcement of this reckless deal, he was defying international sanctions.

The Iran-Russia relationship threatens not only the stability of the region, but that of the entire world. Along with China, these nations have no regard for international law. They not only breach physical international borders, but cyber borders as well.  This threatens our economy, our critical infrastructure and our military systems. And must not be ignored.

Americans are justified in feeling less safe today than they were before. Each election cycle we are told ‘it is the most important election of our lifetime.’  This time that may be true and these issues I believe are of the utmost importance. 

The next president will inherit a more dangerous world. We need to be asking the right questions to make sure we elect a commander in chief who can change the course of history.

Republican Michael McCaul, represents Texas' 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.