The View From 1776


In the notorious recent open-microphone exchange with Dmitry Medvedev, Obama’s apparent assurance to Russia’s Putin that he proposes to continue dismantling our national defense capabilities can be interpreted in several ways, none of them good for the future of the United States.

The first possibility is that Obama simply desires a diminution of America’s leadership role in the world community, because that’s one of the radical left’s strongest demands.  Premature withdrawal of our military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan also supports this thesis.

A second possibility is the liberal-progressive dogma, often articulated in Obama’s speeches, that history is moving us toward a single worldwide government under leadership of the UN and a world justice court.  Reducing our military capabilities would further that effort.

A third possibility is the expectation that reduction of our military capabilities will, at no serious cost to our nation, free more funds to support expansion of our welfare state. This “peace dividend” idea, popular with liberal-progressives after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, is dangerously simplistic, wishful thinking.

The implicit assumption is that the good aspects of the post-World War II world order wrought by the United States’s superpower status would continue if we cede our leadership role. 

Robert Kagan’s recently published The World America Made makes clear, however, that a policy of diminishing America’s leadership in world affairs requires ignorance of history.  If we step down, there will always be some nations with the will and the military and economic power to fill the vacuum.  Struggles of national ambition to succeed the United States are likely to involve the world in more wars and other conflicts than we have experienced in the past sixty-seven years, when the rest of the world knew that the United States was prepared to impose economic or military sanctions to maintain world order.

The world order that America made includes, among many other things, the fact that Western Europe survived and rebuilt its economies, free of Soviet domination, because of the Marshall Plan.  Japan and Germany were converted from beaten down losers to strong economic and diplomatic allies of the United States to serve as bulwarks against the expansionist policies of China and the Soviet Union.  Trade lanes and free movement of people and goods around the world have been sustained by NATO and the United States Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.  We support the growing prosperity of developing nations.  Russia and China aim to control those economies to monopolize use of their resources.  The Cold War ended with the dissolution of the malevolent Soviet Union only because of our policy of containment that made clear to the Soviet leaders that we were prepared to stop them whenever they sought expansion outside their Eastern European sphere of influence.

Russia or China, if allowed to displace us, will seek to control international trade to their advantage by restricting free movement of people and goods.  Both have tightly controlled economies with laughable personal freedoms for their citizens.  Judging from post-World War II history, neither will be shy about imposing those conditions upon their neighbors and trading partners.

If liberal-progressives succeed in reducing the United States to some level of vassalage to other nations, the world we take for granted will be changed in many unpleasant ways.

For additional perspective, read Charles Krauthammer’s Obama Surrenders Our Advantage With His ‘Flexibility’ Doctrine.