I have several posts in varying stages of not ready to hit publish. I thought I might explain a little of what’s going on in the “empty nest”. But the things going on are not leaving me much time for writing and rewriting (which I do to the point of OCD). Since this blog originated as “notes from the fridge”….the following is something that definitely would have gone up first thing this morning. (Kudos to Dr. Bennett‘s staff who answered the request for this within minutes!)
Time to Wake Up
January 6, 2012
As Broadcast on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America
By Seth Leibsohn
Yesterday, our Secretary of Defense, with the President standing next to him, said we will be cutting the Defense budget. He assured us, or tried to, by saying, “There’s no question that we have to make some trade-offs and that we will be taking, as a result of that, some level of additional but acceptable risk in the budget plan that we release next month. These are not easy choices.” Additional risk. Additional acceptable risk.
I’ve never been privileged to serve in the military or law enforcement for that matter, but I know that one thing you don’t want when you are at the point of the spear is to know that you are taking more additional risk than you already have to. If that line about “acceptable risk” wasn’t bothersome enough, here’s the opening paragraph of the Washington Post news story on the Obama military cuts: “The U.S. military will steadily shrink the Army and Marine Corps, reduce forces in Europe and probably make further cuts to the nation’s nuclear arsenal, the Obama administration said Thursday in a preview of how it intends to reshape the armed forces after a decade of war.”
How will all our interests in Europe be defended? Here’s what the British Defense Minister said yesterday: we will “need to reassure the U.S. that we are serious about defense.” Europe will now need to reassure us. So the West’s defense strategy now has the US receding on the stage and hoping for traditionally weaker allies, in even worse economic shape that we are in, to step up. On our social front, Bill Bennett once remarked we have become the kind of place to which civilized countries used to send missionaries. To that I will now add on the military and defense front that we are the kind of country that now requires the defense of others.
Here’s how the Wall Street Journal opened its news story on this: “President Barack Obama on Thursday proposed a historic shift in the U.S. military’s size and ambitions, scaling back its ability to wage the type of war and occupation that just concluded in Iraq as the administration seeks to cut defense spending over the next decade.
“Under the proposal, the Army would face a 14% reduction in troops—leaving it with too few to conduct two grueling ground wars at once, long a strategic imperative of the Defense Department.”
Historic shift…scaling back…reduction in troops…too few to conduct two grueling ground wars at once.
Just a simple question: Has the world become appreciably safer over the last, say, three years? Or, has it become more dangerous? I look at a Russia on the march, a nearly nuclear Iran that threatens us daily now, North Korea as unstable as ever, China as bold as ever, Pakistan as precipitous as ever, Egypt converted from an ally to an enemy with the Muslim Brotherhood taking over, an Iraq in tatters as it considers alignment with Iran, and an Afghanistan yet solidified but with plans for the US to leave, and a missile defense system planned in Poland and the Czech Republic that we cancelled two-and-a-half years ago; and I say the world, by any obvious analysis, has not only become more dangerous and appreciably less safe, but more dangerous and appreciably less safe for America and its allies.
And so we think it wise to enact cuts that make it harder to fight if we have to fight, and we think it wise to broadcast plans that we are making it harder on ourselves to fight should any of our enemies be reading our newspapers or listening to our newscasts and taking note as they consider their strategies. What must they think of America right now? What must an Iran think it might be able to get away with. Here’s an answer, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal editorial page a few days ago: “Taking hostages? Check. Sponsoring terrorism? Check. Covertly pursuing nuclear weapons? Check. Under international sanctions? Check. Repressing its own people? Another check.” Add to those checks the attempted bombing of a restaurant in Washington, DC, the capturing of a US drone, and its generals threatening to blow us out of the Straight of Hormuze. What comes next, after all this? Think about that: what comes next?
But the larger point is this: We are disarming. Let us say it more directly: we are weakening ourselves, and at the point of greater likelihood, not less, that we may have to fight two ground wars simultaneously again…and that we may have to do so because our very own policies are creating those circumstances. What was announced yesterday was not another example of leading from behind, it was an example of statecraft as madness.
As an economic matter—as all this is dressed up to be—it’s equally unserious. As Mark Steyn has written, “Well before the end of this decade interest payments on the debt will consume more of the federal budget than military spending. So you could abolish the Pentagon, sell off the fleet to Beijing and the nukes to Tehran and Khartoum and anybody else who wants ‘em, and we’d still be heading off the cliff.” The military is not the problem—we are making it the problem and we are making the world more problematic by making the military the problem.
The additional tragedy here is not just everything I reported, it is that this story will bury the other large story of the week, or, I should say the other story of the week that should have been larger: The US has been engaged in direct talks, that is, negotiations, with the Taliban, negotiations that began one year ago, and they include the release of prisoners from Guantanamo, including Mullah Mohammed Fazl who is responsible for the massacre of thousands of people, has close relationships with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, is involved in narcotics trafficking, and is considered to pose a “high risk” to American forces and our allies if released.
There you have it. We’ve gone from bombing a country out of the stone age (in Christopher Hitchens’ memorable phrase) to doing everything one would do if asked “how do we go about reinstalling that very government we ousted?”
One of the tragedies of war, folks, is that we sometimes don’t end them well. I hope we can all see we’ve now gone some distance beyond that. The left, during the height of the war against radical Islam in Iraq and Afghanistan, continually lectured us that our military efforts were folly, that our soldiers were dying in vain. That was a disgusting enough set of criticisms, but not nearly as disgusting to me as it is to precipitously withdraw our soldiers from the battlefields as we actually negotiate with those we said there could be no negotiation with and then release the worst of their war criminals as quote, unquote confidence building measures—as if we need to give the likes of the Taliban confidence building measures. The Taliban. That retrograde regime of fascists that welcomed bin Laden, gave him and al-Qaeda safe haven to train terrorists, plan and bomb the United States, and treated women as if they were lower than dogs, pigs, and monkeys. The stone age was too modern a term for the Taliban—and we are bringing them back.
That was the story I feared would get buried this week by the story of our cutting the Army and Marine corps.
But as I related some of this to a friend this week, he kept saying to me, “What ‘we,’ what ‘our,’ Kimosabe? And he makes a fair point. The policies and actions I describe—and they are of a piece with so many other disastrous policies on the world and domestic stages—are done in our name, because we are one people and one nation. But they have been done in our name by one man and one administration.
I despise the extra-constitutional routing of the Constitutional Senate process to name government officials. That is clear contempt for our democratic processes. But let us put at least as much attention on the weakening of ourselves and our allies; no, I’m sorry, the endangering of ourselves and our allies, by the very policies and actions of President Barack Obama. There are not enough radio stations and affiliates to discuss all that this administration is doing over any given week. So, the task is all of ours. Talk to your friends about this. Talk to your neighbors about this. Make it a passion of yours beyond our brief time together. This country deserves at least that—our passion for its defense. Inaction over a weakened America is no virtue. Accountability still matters, in fact, I think it’s the essence of democracy.