A Look at Democratic National Security Talking Points

A D.C. group has a few thoughts on what Democratic pundits should say about national security issues.

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Sanctions, not war, will lead Iran to suspend its nuclear weapons program. Less, not more, annual military spending will keep America safe.

Those are the political talking points being served up to Democratic pundits on national security issues by one liberal-leaning Washington organization in a new briefing book. The Truman National Security Project document presents a stark contrast to the policy whims of Republicans, and will help drive Democratic candidates' campaign-trail messages on security and foreign policy issues.

On Iran, Truman advises Democrats to acknowledge that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons and poses a threat to the U.S. But unlike hawkish Republicans who call for preemptive military strikes to change that, the briefing calls for "responsible options" like stiff sanctions, "tough diplomacy," and reducing America's dependence on oil.

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While Republicans often dismiss the effects economic sanctions are having on the Iranian regime, the Truman Project instructs its trainees to argue the sanctions are having "a significant impact on Iran's economy."

The briefing book warns a military attack on Iran's nuclear targets would only delay—not permanently cripple—the Middle East nation's nuclear-arms program, while also advising a message that a strike would only lead to "regional chaos and violence against Israel."

"Iran would swiftly retaliate against Israel through its terrorist proxies. It would also probably attack U.S. citizens and military bases," states the briefing book. "Military strikes will rally the Iranian people around a regime they currently dislike and only set the nuclear program back by two or three years."

Whereas GOP lawmakers and candidates typically offer tough talk about what Washington should do about Iran's nuclear program, the Truman Project guide states "saber-rattling may scare Iran into acquiring a nuclear weapon."

Portions of the briefing book were leaked and became available online Monday. The Truman group is an organization that "recruits, trains, and positions a new generation of progressives across America to lead on national security," according to its website.

On annual military spending, the briefing book includes a figure at which many hawkish Republicans recoil when it is brought up: "Defense spending has grown over 600 percent since the 1960s."

Annual defense spending was below $100 billion in 1962 and, when factoring in war costs, approaches $800 billion today--and is up from around $300 billion before the 9/11 attacks.

Look for Democratic candidates and pundits during the campaign to take a page from the book by placing defense spending in an economic context.

"A country with a weak economy cannot remain a strong power. America must get its economic house in order as part of a smart security strategy," according to Truman. "Meanwhile, many new security threats, such as terrorism and cyber warfare, defy military solutions alone."

Notably, however, other than calls for more flexible weapon systems and nuclear arms reductions, the Truman briefing offers no detailed policy prescriptions on the organization's preferred level of military spending, nor specific programs that could be terminated.

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