Readers of this blog know that I believe that President Obama has been very effective in setting the course of the nation since his reelection. But I must point out that the news conference yesterday on the Sequester was pretty tone deaf.
President Obama on Tuesday painted a dire picture of federal government operations across the United States should automatic budget cuts hit on March 1: F.B.I. agents furloughed, criminals released, flights delayed, teachers and police officers laid off and parents frantic to find a place for children locked out of day care centers.
To say that an $85 billion cut out of a $3.7 Trillion budget is hardly cause for alarm. After the military budget doubled in 8 years under both Bush and Obama, reducing the Pentagon budget by 6% hardly qualifies for endangering our national security. This kind of scare talk should be left to John McCain and Lindsay Graham and will only backfire on the President when it turns out that the sky did not fall after the Sequester went through. Anyone who has run a business–big or small–knows that taking 5% out of a budget can be done without killing the enterprise. The Pentagon is the most bloated enterprise in America. These cuts can only help the lazy planners realize that we live in a new Post Empire World. The quicker the President realizes that fear mongering won’t work, the sooner we can get back to the real work of American Renewal.
For me, the place to start that strategic renewal is Patrick Doherty’s amazing essay in Foreign Policy, A New U.S. Grand Strategy.
The status quo is untenable. In the United States, the country’s economic engine is misaligned to the threats and opportunities of the 21st century. Designed explicitly to exploit postwar demand for suburban housing, consumer goods, and reconstruction materials for Europe and Japan, the conditions that allowed it to succeed expired by the early 1970s. Its shelf life has since been extended by accommodative monetary policy and the accumulation of household, corporate, and federal debt. But with Federal Reserve interest rates effectively zero, Americans’ debt exceeding their income, and storms lashing U.S. cities, the country is at the end of the road.
Abroad, Washington’s post-Cold War pattern of episodic adventurism and incremental crisis management only creates further uncertainty, and rising powers will not lead. Other major economies have little appetite for altering the global order and hence are doubling down on the old system, exacerbating trade imbalances and driving record resource extraction. As commodity prices rise, global powers are hedging ever more aggressively — stockpiling resources and increasingly becoming entangled in conflicts in resource-rich areas. As the global economy falters, unrest rises and the great unresolved conflicts of the 20th century — the Middle East, South Asia, North Korea, Taiwan — grow increasingly enmeshed in the power dynamics of this new era.
Simply put, the current U.S. and international order is unsustainable, and myriad disruptions signal that it is now in a process of collapse. Until the United States implements a new grand strategy, the country will face even more rapid degradation of domestic and global conditions.
Read the whole essay and then let’s discuss. May we live in exciting times.