“One thing I think Americans should be proud of… this nation, me, my administration stood with them” –Barack Obama
“L’Etat c’est a moi” –Louis XIV
The final presidential puerile squabbling fest debate of the cycle has come and gone—thank goodness—and we’re left to puzzle out an understanding of where we are to go from here. For starters, liberals are already crying foul over Romney seeming too presidential to be painted a raging extremist. You would think they’d be happy to find a Republican keeping his enemy close agreeing with Obama. Speaking of, what are the proposals, visions, and opportunities represented by the Leader of the Free World?
First off, this was a foreign policy debate, and it was supposed to highlight the strengths of the incumbent who killed bin Laden. Yet for all the talk of Barack Obama’s purported victory, the president left many questions unanswered and many potential voters uncomfortable. President Obama has opposed any attempts to defuse sequestration, but Debate Obama vowed that the sequestration cuts would (since backtracked to “should”) not happen. How exactly will you prevent those cuts, Mr. President? By shifting them elsewhere, as the Republicans (and the Secretary of Defense) have asked along? By raising taxes on small businesses during a recession? You would be forgiven any wariness of the president’s sincerity on the matter, as he continues to defy his legal requirement to disclose how sequestration cuts would be implemented.
The other inconvenient budgetary situation is that of ending the war in Afghanistan, which both candidates have pledged to do by 2014. Once Twice again, Obama promoted economic benefits:
“You know, one of the challenges over the last decade is we’ve done experiments in nation building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. And we’ve neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our own education system. And it’s very hard for us to project leadership around the world when we’re not doing what we need to do here.
But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. And what we can now do is free up some resources to, for example, put Americans back to work”
I’m glad we can all agree that the incumbent president, whoever that is, should have been “nation-building here at home” by “developing our own economy” to “put Americans back to work”. Moving along, concluding the war in Afghanistan will eliminate only a fraction of the $1.2-trillion deficit. (Remember when it was supposed to be $520 million?) This will certainly mean less debt, but there will be no savings to put elsewhere. Obama can choose to restore the deficit by borrowing towards different spending, but if that is his intention, why hasn’t he said and defended it? Is he hoping the American people won’t notice?
On the subject of defense budgeting and strategy, what was the point of comparing Navy ships to “horses and bayonets” in jocular derision of valid concerns about defense policy? Does Obama believe ships are obsolescent in a modern Navy? Given that “aircraft carriers” and “nuclear submarines” are also ships, does it follow that the president believes we should have fewer of them? Is this where he intends to direct those undisclosed sequestration cuts? Whatever the answers, this clever gimmick allowed Obama to shrewdly avoid Romney’s actual point: due to defense budget cuts, the Pentagon has abandoned its “two-war strategy” and is reducing our ability to wage war. Why is it that the president seems so unwilling to defend this decision?
Regarding war direction and authority, Obama defended his actions in Syria by citing Muammar Gaddafi’s many crimes. The assessment is accurate, and we notice how much the exercise recalls George W. Bush’s indictment of Saddam Hussein’s violent record (notwithstanding the discredited 9/11 association). Am I saying Obama’s deployment of force in Libya is akin to the initiation of the Iraq War? No, of course not. President Bush sought and received congressional authorization for his invasions; President Obama never bothered and, when pressed, denied the need. This begs us to ask: what is the Obama Doctrine for the engagement of American martial power? What limits, if any, ought the executive to acknowledge on his authority to commit acts of war?
It is by no means clear what a second Obama term would hold for our military and our national budget. But the gist of it seems to be that the president is committed to three proposals: 1) cut the defense budget & downsize the military, 2) maintain a deficit to finance more government spending, and 3) don’t answer too many questions about 1 and 2. It’s almost like this president feels entitled to rule the country as he sees fit, without the burden of oversight or popular approval.
Can we afford four more years of this governance?