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January 11, 2013

Charles Krauthammer: The Meaning Of The Hagel Nomination

In short, nothing good.

Message-sending. Obama won reelection. He no longer has to trim, to appear more moderate than his true instincts. He has the “flexibility” to be authentically Obama.

Hence the Hagel choice: Under the guise of centrist bipartisanship, it allows the president to leave the constrained first-term Obama behind and follow his natural Hagel-like foreign policy inclinations.

...

Hagel himself doesn’t matter. He won’t make foreign policy. Obama will run it out of the White House even more tightly than he did in the first term. Hagel’s importance is the message his nomination sends about where Obama wants to go. The lessons are being duly drawn. Iran’s official media have already cheered the choice of what they call this “anti-Israel” nominee. And they fully understand what his nomination signals regarding administration resolve about stopping them from going nuclear.

The rest of the world can see coming the Pentagon downsizing — and the inevitable, commensurate decline of U.S. power. Pacific Rim countries will have to rethink reliance on the counterbalance of the U.S. Navy and consider acquiescence to Chinese regional hegemony. Arab countries will understand that the current rapid decline of post-Kissinger U.S. dominance in the region is not cyclical but intended to become permanent.

Related: Byron York makes the case that there are certainly efficiencies and savings to be found in the defense budget.

Maintaining national security requires underwriting a lot of departments: Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and countless others. But looking just at the Defense Department, the Obama administration this year plans to spend (without sequestration) $550 billion on the basic operations of the Pentagon, plus $88 billion specifically on the war in Afghanistan -- a total of $638 billion.

Back in 2007, the Pentagon's base budget was just $431 billion, with $132 billion added for the war in Iraq and $34 billion for Afghanistan -- a total of $597 billion. Given that it was a peak year for war spending in Iraq, in part because of a costly troop surge, is there any reason the U.S. should be spending more on the Pentagon's base budget today, adjusted for inflation, than it did in 2007?

"If we go back to '07, we had the Army we have today, and it was surging in Iraq, with all the logistical support it needed," says one senior GOP Senate aide. "No one in '07 was screaming that we didn't have enough money for the military."

Republicans and conservatives shouldn't treat the defense budget as sacrosanct but letting Obama and Hagel use this opportunity to redefine our defense posture is dangerous and will have repercussions far into the future.

Republicans agreed to sequestration and Americans elected Barack Obama twice. It's the perfect storm of idiocy.


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posted by DrewM. at 11:58 AM

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