Krauthammer on the Hagel nomination:
Message-sending. Obama won reelection. He no longer has to trim, to appear more moderate than his true instincts. He has the “flexibility” to be authentically Obama.
Hence the Hagel choice: Under the guise of centrist bipartisanship, it allows the president to leave the constrained first-term Obama behind and follow his natural Hagel-like foreign policy inclinations.
…Hagel himself doesn’t matter. He won’t make foreign policy. Obama will run it out of the White House even more tightly than he did in the first term. Hagel’s importance is the message his nomination sends about where Obama wants to go. The lessons are being duly drawn. Iran’s official media have already cheered the choice of what they call this “anti-Israel” nominee. And they fully understand what his nomination signals regarding administration resolve about stopping them from going nuclear.
The rest of the world can see coming the Pentagon downsizing — and the inevitable, commensurate decline of U.S. power. Pacific Rim countries will have to rethink reliance on the counterbalance of the U.S. Navy and consider acquiescence to Chinese regional hegemony. Arab countries will understand that the current rapid decline of post-Kissinger U.S. dominance in the region is not cyclical but intended to become permanent.
And the liberals love it. Matthew Yglesias at Slate writes that no matter what, our country is safe:
As conservatives generally point out whenever the context isn’t military spending, it’s very damaging to human welfare to have the government tax productive labor in order to spend money on something useless. So given that population aging is certain to lead to growing pressures on the federal budget, it’s important to make up as much of the financing gap as possible by cutting spending elsewhere rather than with new taxes. And per the great Peterson Foundation chart above, the U.S. military budget is really large. Obviously, you don’t want to cut the military all the way to the bone lest you invite an invasion from Mexico or Canada. But we’re not even close to being overwhelmed by Canadian arms. And it’s striking that if you look at non-U.S. defense spending, a majority of it appears to be by U.S. treaty allies—NATO members, Japan, Australia, South Korea, etc.—so we really do seem very safe.
He doesn’t like any proposed cuts to Medicare but defense….chop it, dice it, and slice it.
I’m sure there is a lot of bloated programs we could cut in defense, as there is in everything government does. Government is the least efficient entity in the country so sure, lets have a look across the board and slice it. But once you send signals to the world that we have become weaker for major combat all it does is invite trouble. Look at the news today that the hostilities between China and Japan are not only escalating militarily but financially.
What if China did attack Japan? Do we just allow it to happen because all we have left is some SEAL teams to do some behind the scenes stuff? No one believes there would every be a war between the two…but we never believed al-Qaeda would bring down the twin towers either. We never believed Germany would invade most of Europe. We never believed Japan would bomb our country. Without a strong military, without heavy ground and air capabilities we will become a joke to those who are most definitely evil. Hell, we don’t even make tanks anymore. Unbelievable.
But I would like to see someone specify how far we could cut. Should we be spending the same amount as China? Twice as much? Would that be a stable equilibrium, or would we be encouraging the emergence of global competitors who would then force us to spend more again?
When I think about this, I think of Google. It’s safe to say that Google spends more than anyone else on the development of web services, including improving stuff that they aleady spend more on than anyone else, and do better than anyone else, like . . . web search. You could argue that they should stop, because it’s a waste of money: they’ve already got the top ranked search engine, and webmail program. Why continue to spend money making those things better when they’ve already got such a dominant position?
…I don’t think that many strategic advisors would recommend Google cut back its spending to the level of its next biggest competitor. The reason is obvious: Google’s continued spending keeps competitors out of the market. If they cut back that far, there’s a real risk that someone more nimble will come along and start cutting into your market. Every user that Google loses to a competitor makes their services just slightly less outstanding.
On a similar note, you can argue that the reason that other countries spend comparatively little on their militaries is that there is no point. America spends so much money that there is no hope of anyone else building competitive capacity (at least, not since the Soviet Union collapsed). So no one even tries. Even countries like Russia and China seem focused on building capacity as regional powers, not viable competitors to the US. This is good for us, obviously, but arguably it’s also good for billions of other people who aren’t embroiled in wars (or occupied by a foriegn power), because there’s so little potential gain to the countries that might start them*.
The rest of the world can see the cuts and inevitable decline of America’s power. This will most certainly give confidence to those who wish to start a war with whomever over whatever. Rest assured, they are out there. And we will not have the capability to do anything about it.
Maybe we can shoot a few drone missiles at them and that will scare em….
Obama likes to say that his approach is pragmatic. And it is. But pragmatism is reactive, not proactive. Obama addresses problems as they come up, simultaneously and separately. He articulates few priorities and no overall vision of where he is taking the United States or the world. He wants to end America’s involvement in wars and expects other countries to step up as America steps back. But if China steps up and Europe doesn’t, what then?
Obama disconnects and downsizes threats. In Iraq he declared “mission accomplished” and left, even though Iran, which is right next door and presumably the biggest threat in the region, has now moved into Iraq to solidify support for the Shiite regime and to supply arms to jihadists in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. In Afghanistan, Obama incrementally downsized America’s goal from defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban, to weakening the Taliban, to negotiating with the Taliban to rejoin the government—which is how 9/11 started, right?
He targeted and killed specific terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden—immunizing his otherwise feckless foreign policy—but in the process created a bigger problem, a destabilized Pakistan. In Iran, he seeks to stop the development of nuclear weapons but is negotiating secretly with Tehran to stop simply the public announcement of nuclear weapons. He is ready to accommodate an Iranian nuclear capability as long as Iran doesn’t declare it has nuclear weapons.
…The major differences in foreign policy between Obama and the loyal opposition boil down to one word—leadership. Leadership offers vision, connects means and ends, and rises above politics. Obama has demonstrated no capacity to do any of those things, either in Congress or in the world community. The optimistic view is that he will do so now because he no longer faces reelection. But that seems unlikely. If you have won two elections as a state senator, one as a U.S. senator, and two as president, and you still have no significant accomplishments to show for it, it’s doubtful that your leadership skills will suddenly emerge in what is presumably your last four years in office.
Maybe I am wrong, and I hope so. And even if I am not, our country will certainly survive. But the world is at risk. I doubt that other countries will step up to stop Russia and China from exploiting the advantages they hold outside of negotiations while they talk endlessly inside negotiations. Russia is expanding its influence in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, Iran, and, as the United States leaves, central Asia. China is doing the same in North Korea, the Taiwan Strait, Pakistan, and along the first island chain in the Pacific. Someone has to be there to limit their options.
Meanwhile, American allies are restless, especially Israel and Japan. They know that if America retreats, it will be a game changer in their respective regions. Yet Obama appears to be doing just that. He is playing it fast and loose on the diplomatic scene as the U.S. economy idles and military resources are withdrawn from around the world. The little light that pundits saw between Obama’s foreign policy and that of his opposition in the recent election is about to become a glaring gap, as America drifts and instability around the world increases.