In a recent column, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote, “Chuck Hagel has been nominated to supervise the beginning of this generation-long process of defense cutbacks. If a Democratic president is going to slash defense, he probably wants a Republican at the Pentagon to give him political cover, and he probably wants a decorated war hero to boot.”
Brooks is on the mark with his analysis, and I’d add several things to it.
1. It’s quite telling that the one agency that the president wants to slash is the one that (a) is operating best and has garnered the most trust from the public and (b) is the area in which the federal government’s role is the most explicit and appropriate.
For those who still wonder whether Mr. Obama is at heart a pragmatist or a liberal ideologue, it’s worth pointing out that Obama has shown zero interest in cutting spending in non-defense related areas. In fact, during his presidency non-defense spending has skyrocketed. Mr. Obama has no desire to pare back the welfare state; his goal is to expand it beyond anything we’ve ever seen. Except when it comes to national defense. There he can barely contain his budget cutting ways.
2. I suspect we’ll end up paying a very high cost for what Obama is doing in the whole area of national security, from massive cuts in defense, to losing the Afghanistan war (and our premature exiting from Iraq), to events increasingly spinning out of control in the Middle East and beyond.
Barack Obama wants America to be weaker than it is and to play a secondary role in world affairs. He set out his reasons why in the first months of his first term, when he seemed to relish the chance to express his pent-up criticisms of America, most especially when he was on foreign soil.
That’s not surprising, since Obama’s view on these matters, as on so many matters, were shaped on the campuses of elite, liberal universities, where veneration for America is as rare as hostility toward Israel is rampant. (The two are not disconnected.)
3. What we’re seeing in the president’s stance toward national defense is emblematic of something else: the second-term liberation of Barack Obama. By now it’s obvious that rhetorically positioning himself as a moderate and a pragmatist were (and remain) affectations for Obama. He is a committed progressive, and he’s attempting to alter America as fundamentally in a liberal direction as Ronald Reagan did in a conservative direction.
Barack Obama is a man on a mission. His goal, which he stated shortly before the 2008 election, is to transform America. He’s succeeding. He’s now unconstrained by future elections. And when he finally gets done, there will be enormous damage to undo.