I weep: our foreign policy has been reduced to hashtags

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**Posted by Phineas

Your Obama foreign policy team

Your Obama foreign policy team

Well, I weep and I mock.

For those not familiar with Twitter, “hashtags” are labels preceded by a number sign, as in “#politics.” They were developed to make it easier for people to search for related messages on the system, though people also use them as asides to provide commentary, humor, or snark.

A few weeks ago, the United States Department of State, faced with the slow-motion dismemberment of Ukraine by Russia, apparently decided that hashtags were also effective tools of superpower diplomacy. Thus we saw this from State’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki:

My reaction, you’ll be surprised to learn, was one of dismay and disgust. This is hardly the serious diplomacy one would expect from a department once headed by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, John Hay, Dean Acheson, and George Schultz. One would think that, having been roundly mocked here and overseas (You mean you didn’t hear the giggling from Moscow?), the State Department would have given up on managing our foreign affairs like it was a popularity contest, complete with cheerleading. But, no. No, some genius at State decided this was a winning strategy and deployed it again, only this time with an exhortation to Putin:

“Promise of hashtag??” You have got to be kidding me. “Yes, Vlad, be nice to Ukraine. You wouldn’t want to fail the spirit of the hashtag, would you?” Someone last night speculated that an intern forgot to substitute the real hashtag in place of the placeholder word “hashtag,” but that’s immaterial. The whole idea that anyone should think that using catchy social media slogans as a tool of diplomacy would be seen as anything other than self-inflicted humiliation is laughable. That the “strategy” originated at the highest levels of State is infuriating.

And so I couldn’t resist commenting:

And then I offered examples of the promise of hashtag and its power in US foreign affairs:

Others pointed out that the promise of hashtag was global. For example:

Indeed, Lincoln ended the Civil War with it:

But this one, I think, summed up the depth and gravity of State’s strategic thinking in this crisis:

While this baby speaks for me:

But I did offer Ms. Psaki and her co-workers a friendly and much-needed hint:

No, they do not, and it’s in part because people who think they do are in charge of our foreign policy that the world has become a much more dangerous place. It’s a common joke that both sides make to wish for the day “when the adults will be in charge, again,” but, in this case, it’s no longer a joke.  We’re facing foes around the globe who operate via the calculus of power, will, and national interest, while we are represented by community organizers who treat serious matters of state as occasions for virtual rallies.

Argh.

RELATED: More at Twitchy here and here. Jonah Goldberg on Obama’s foreign policy.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Why on Earth are we selling spare aircraft parts to Iran?

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**Posted by Phineas

"You're want what??"

“You’re did what??”

This is an unbelievably stupid decision. I’ll let my friend Michael Ledeen explain why:

Somebody on Twitter posted an upbeat message saying the US delegation to the latest round of talks with Iranian officials was quite optimistic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a born optimist and I love optimism, but I’d rather revel in victory than hope for good news, and the Iranians have every reason to revel. The Obama crowd has just ok’d something the Tehran tyrants have desperately wanted since the eighties: spare parts for their long-grounded American passenger aircraft. Boeing and General Electric were given export licenses by the Treasury Department and everyone involved has been chanting “we take aircraft security very seriously,” in order to cloak this latest gift to the Khamenei-Rouhani regime in humanitarian hues.

Frankly I’d rather they took national security very seriously. Iran uses its commercial aircraft for military purposes (one of the reasons that eery flight between Tehran and Caracas is so worrisome), and the mullahs have been limited by the degradation of the national fleet. The Boeing planes and GE engines date to the 1970s, and very few of them are in service. Back in the mid-eighties, when I spent quite a bit of time with Iranian officials, they repeatedly asked for spare parts, both for the passenger planes and for the aging military craft, the F4s and F5s. Secretary of Defense Weinberger of course vetoed any such discussions, and the embargo has held until just now.

Now we’re arming Iran.

Emphases added.

The idea that a state-sponsor of global terrorism like Iran would adhere to understandings to keep the civilian and military functions of their aircraft separate is self-delusional nonsense. They’ll no more do that than they have to keep their civilian and military nuclear programs apart. (Really, I have a bridge for anyone who believes they’re honoring the recent nuclear agreement.)

What these fatuous dunderheads at State and in the White House refuse to see is that Iran has regarded itself as being at war with the United States since 1979. A deal like this, when Iran could easily ferry troops or equipment on “civilian” flights is tantamount to selling them the rope they’ll use to hang us.

This is part of a larger, global war of tyrannies against democracies. George W. Bush was mocked for his “Axis of Evil” comment, but he was right. The players have changed a bit since then, but still include Pyongyang, Moscow, Beijing, Havana, Caracas — and Tehran. And they’re taking advantage of the openings we’re giving them. More Michael:

And so it is, indeed the war has been on for some time, and it’s a bit hotter than Cold War 1.0 was for most of the twentieth century.  Kiev burned, and may burn again soon.  Caracas is burning, as are many of Venezuela’s cities and towns.  Crimea has been annexed, and Syria is still aflame, as is Iraq, and also Yemen.  Estonia and Finland are seriously frightened, as well they should be.  If we pull back from the crisis du jour, we can see it’s a global conflict.  Iran and Russia are fighting in Syria, sometimes with and sometimes against the jihadi marauders.  Cuba is fighting in Venezuela, a country the Castros largely command, and Hezbollah is in there, too.  And for those of you who follow Africa, know that the Iranians are up to their necks in Nigeria, buying influence and supporting the mass murderers in Boko Haram.

The West needs to wake up and smell the smoke from the fires starting to burn all around it, before it turns into a real conflagration. Our foes are vulnerable, and the West can win, but only if with American leadership. The US government is the only one that can convince the other nations to take the steps necessary to push back against Putin, Khamenei, and the others. As John Schindler recently wrote:

We will have many allies in resisting Russian aggression if we focus on issues of freedom and sovereignty, standing up for the rights of smaller countries to choose their own destiny.

It would help if we had leaders who saw themselves as the heirs to Churchill, rather than Chamberlain.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Russia on the march: 10 reasons Putin is likely to invade eastern Ukraine

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**Posted by Phineas

"I won"

“Can’t touch this.”

There’s a good article by Michael Weiss giving a list of reasons why Russia’s Vladimir Putin is probably going to make a move soon to take over Ukraine’s largely ethnic-Russian eastern regions. It’s well-worth reading; Weiss covers the realities of power, political considerations, and Russian military movements (1). He also brings up a motive that’s psychological, but I think it fits. Let’s see what you think:

2. Putin enjoys embarrassing the United States, and especially its current commander-in-chief.

On Feb. 28, Obama warned that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine” — before high-tailing it to a Democratic National Committee cocktail party at the Washington Hilton. The next day, the world awoke to a Russian invasion of Crimea. “Rarely has a threat from a U.S. president been dismissed as quickly — and comprehensively — as Obama’s warning on Friday night,” the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson reported. And let’s look at the laundry list of American desires and warnings the Kremlin has brushed aside: Russia has dramatically increased its arms transfers to Syria since the chemical disarmament deal was struck last fall. It continues to host fugitive NSA spy Edward Snowden. And during the midst of the Maidan protests, Russia’s own spies intercepted a phone call between a top U.S. State Department official and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, then leaked the contents of it to Kremlin-controlled media. Moreover, neither Putin nor his inner circle seem terribly aggravated by the current suite of U.S. or EU sanctions or the blockbuster admission by the Treasury Department that Putin — now a staunch patriotic proponent of the “de-offshoreization” of the Russian economy — personally controls assets in Swiss oil commodities giant Gunvor.

While I would never argue that psychological motives are paramount –Putin’s too much of a power realist to fool himself with petty self-gratifications– I’m sure they’re there. Vladimir Putin is an ex-KGB officer, trained to be brutal when necessary. His goals are those of every Russian ruler since the Mongols were driven out: seeking the security of Russia by dominating the states around her and keeping powerful foes at a distance. In America, he sees a nation in short-term decline, creating an opportunity for him to advance those goals. In Obama, he sees a weak, out of his depth, would-be academic beta-male whom he, Vladimir Putin, almost a caricature of the alpha-male, can intimidate to seize that opportunity.

In short, Putin sees Obama as his [you fill in the word] and loves showing that to the world.

You can bet he plans to enjoy that feeling again, soon.

Footnote:
(1) They’re deploying field hospitals. That’s a significant sign it itself.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Worst Department of State, ever

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**Posted by Phineas

This is someone’s brilliant idea of an effective strategy to deal with Putin over Ukraine:

— Jen Psaki (@statedeptspox) March 26, 2014

 

Word of advice to Secretary Kerry and President Obama: Communitarianism is not a foreign policy and shaming is not an winning tactic when you’re dealing with an ex-KGB officer. Know what I’m saying?

BTW, the person in the photo is Jen Psaki, the official spokeswoman for the United States Department of State. Way to work the gravitas, there, Jen.

PS: I’ve saved a screen cap in case they delete it.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Crimean “election” and our feckless foreign policy

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**Posted by Phineas

"I won"

“I won”

News has been coming in indicating that the Crimeans have voted with about 93% in favor (1) to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Funny how that works, isn’t it, when there are tens of thousands of Russian troops all over Crimea, not to mention these… “campaign workers:”

Crimea Russia Ukraine mobile artillery

Anyway, I had planned to write about our feckless foreign policy and our pathetic response to Putin’s “19th-century behavior,” but The Diplomad and the XX Committee have both beaten me to it. First the Diplomad:

Silly talk and posturing, the making of grand-sounding statements, and drawing erasable “red lines” all have consequences. One, of course, is that Russia is not likely to undo its actions in Crimea. The Russians, furthermore, have sanction-like weapons of their own such as the messing about with US banks and debt noted above, but not limited only to that. They are major suppliers of gas to Europe and in the past have shown a willingness to interrupt supplies for political purposes.

So while we gut our military, refuse to buy Canadian oil, or become energy independent and a major supplier of energy to Europe, we prattle on and on about sanctions and international law and solidarity with the Syrian opposition Ukraine. As noted before, we could neutralize Russia’s leverage in the world very swiftly, without ever mentioning the word “sanctions.” That, however, requires something we do not have, to wit, patriotic, committed, focused, and decisive leadership.

Metternich and Kissinger, our guys ain’t.

Lewis Amselem, “The Diplomad,” links to a post he wrote describing what we could do to make Putin’s life miserable. I highly recommend it, but, if you haven’t the time to read it, I’ll give you the executive summary: fracking. Putin must be pinching himself at his unbelievable luck, that we have leadership too blinkered by ideology and environmentalist PAC money to do what needs to be done.

Gee, I guess Sarah Palin was right, again, when she said “drill, baby, drill.”

Meanwhile, Naval War College professor John Schindler, writing at The XX Committee, has this to say about our current crop of diplomats and national security personnel:

However, the rot goes far deeper than this White House, and is not confined to any party; indeed, the remarkable decline in American foreign policy over the last generation is one of our few truly bi-partisan national efforts, so there’s no point in fantasizing that an election or two will change this. This sad truth I explained in a recent post which got quite a bit of attention, particularly this part:

“A related factor here surely is that the United States has groomed a whole generation of foreign policy wonks-in-training who lack any real understanding of how the world actually works. These impressive-on-paper people – let it be noted they are legion in both parties – the under-45?s who are always graduates of the right schools and first-rate players of The Game in Washington, DC (which really comes down to cultivating the right mentors who will guide you to the proper think-tank until your party returns to power), are no match for the stone-cold killers of the Kremlin, led by the Chekist-in-Chief Putin. They have grown up in a world where unipolar American power has never been challenged, and while they can utter pleasant, Davos-ready platitudes about the whole range of bien pensant issues – global warming, emerging trends in micro-finance, gender matters on the Subcontinent, et al – they have quite literally nothing to say when old-school conventional threats emerge and enemies – yes, enemies: not rivals or merely misunderstood would-be partners – emerge from the darkness with conquest and killing on their minds.”

We’re in the best of hands, no? Our leadership prattles on about how dismembering other countries “just isn’t done,” while Vladimir Putin goes right ahead and does it.

Anyway, I suggest you put both sites in your feed reader, if you haven’t already. The insights they provide are invaluable.

RELATED: Did you know Putin has recently reported as saying that the breakup of the USSR was illegal? That should make the Evil Empire’s former satrapies happy, especially as more Russian troops mass at Ukraine’s borders for “exercises.” Oh, and Russia’s toadies in Belarus have mobilized, too. And if you wonder what Russia has in mind, besides keeping access to a Black Sea port (Sevastopol) and thus the Mediterranean, have a look at these maps.

Obama and Kerry blather about the “international community” and “sanctions,” but it’s really all about the realities of power. Putin gets it, they don’t.

Footnote:
(1) Sloppy, Vlad. Kim Jong Un will be disappointed in you.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

John Kerry focuses the State Department like a laser… On climate change

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**Posted by Phineas

We're doomed.

We’re doomed.

Because, as we all know, Man-caused climate change the Dread Demon Carbon Dioxide is the “world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” a threat we have to deal with now and with all our efforts. Not nukes in the hands of Iranian mullahs yearning to bring about their version of the Apocalypse. Not jihadist terror groups also jonesing for a few kilotons of their own. Not H-bombs and rockets in the possession of Kim Jong Un, who, when not feeding relatives to the dogs and ordering the execution of Christians, might decide to restart the Korean War. Not Vladimir Putin, who, with thousands of nuclear weapons at his disposal, has decided to start dismembering neighboring states and daring the West to do something, anything about it. Not a rising, hyper-nationalist, aggressive, nuclear-armed China, which is rattling sabers at its island neighbors and looking to challenge American supremacy in the western Pacific.

Nope. Global warming is the greatest threat to America, and so Secretary Kerry has ordered our ambassadors around the world to make that their top priority:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on American ambassadors around the world to make the fight against climate change a top priority ahead of new UN talks next year.

In his first department-wide policy guidance statement since taking office a year ago, he told his 70,000 staff: “The environment has been one of the central causes of my life.”

“Protecting our environment and meeting the challenge of global climate change is a critical mission for me as our country’s top diplomat,” Kerry said in the letter issued on Friday to all 275 US embassies and across the State Department.

“It’s also a critical mission for all of you: our brave men and women on the frontlines of direct diplomacy,” he added in the document seen by AFP.

He urged all “chiefs of mission to make climate change a priority for all relevant personnel and to promote concerted action at posts and in host countries to address this problem.”

Note that the environment has been one of the “central causes” of John Kerry’s life, his personal mission. Thus the Department of State, charged with conducting the nation’s diplomacy, is now at the service of John Kerry’s personal tilt at the windmill. Silly me for thinking State’s job is to pursue the nation’s interests, not one dull man’s obsessions.

Of course, Kerry probably thinks his cause is the nation’s. It’s solipsism as foreign policy.

I ask again: Have we ever had a more fatuous, dunderheaded  bore as secretary of state than John Kerry?

Via Doug Powers, who provides illustrative examples of the Kerrys’ “Green lifestyle.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

(Video) John Bolton at CPAC on foreign affairs

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**Posted by Phineas

National Review’s Jim Geraghty interviewed former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton (1) at the Conservative Political Action Conference and asked him what in world affairs keeps him awake at night. His answer should have you weeping — not because of what he says, so much as the knowledge our foreign policy is directed by the likes of Barack Obama, John Kerry, Joe Biden, and Samantha Power.

In a world made more dangerous by Team Unicorn’s Hundred Acre Wood foreign policy, I can only hope a hard-nosed realist who –gasp!– thinks the world is a better place with a strong America plays a major role in the next administration’s foreign policy. They’re going to have a heckuva mess to clean up.

Footnote:
(1) Or, as we fanboys like to call him, “The ‘Stache.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Okay, now Putin is just trolling us. Update: Ukraine sailors to Putin – “You lie!”

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**Posted by Phineas

In an interview with reporters, Tsar President Vladimir Putin said those aren’t Russian troops taking control of Crimea from the Ukraine.

No, really.

Russian soldiers have not occupied government buildings and surrounded Ukrainian military bases on the Crimean Peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Tuesday during a news conference near Moscow at which he gave an account of recent events that contradicts reports from the ground.

Instead, he told reporters that the heavily armed men are “local self-defense forces.”

What’s more, anything Russia has done, Putin said without offering specifics, has been part of a “humanitarian mission” to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea.

Right. Because local self-defense forces always have self-propelled artillery  (1) available:

Crimea Russia Ukraine mobile artillery

Yeah, that looks like any humanitarian mission I’ve ever seen. How about you?

Meanwhile, I’m sure those are only local self-defense forces demanding the surrender of Ukrainian ships in Crimea — or else. And the treacherous former commanding officer of the Ukrainian Navy defected only to local self-defense forces. But it’s not really a defection because, hey, all those guys in Russian uniforms are Ukrainians, too! (More trolling: they only bought those uniforms at their local surplus store.)

I swear Putin must laugh his head off every time he shuts the door.

via Bryan Preston

Footnote:
(1) Come on, CNN. If you want to retain even a shred of credibility, have someone on hand who can actually identify military equipment.

UPDATE: via The XX Committee, a statement by sailors of the Ukrainian Navy in response to Putin’s assertion that there are no Russian troops in their country. Here’s an excerpt:

The Ukrainian Navy warships Ternopil and Slavutych, which are moored in Sevastopol Bay, are currently blocked by warships and vessels of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and they are all carrying detachments of marines numbering up to a platoon. They are armed with automatic weapons and equipped accordingly.

Bearing in mind the remarks of Mr. Putin that such gear and equipment can be bought in any shop, we would like to seize the moment and ask which shop – as well as where one can purchase automatic weapons, pistols and grenade launchers in violation of Ukrainian legislation? We also would like to recall that no unit of the Ukrainian Armed Forces deployed in Crimea gave up even a single inch of the territory of their military bases or the weapons entrusted to them, let alone in such quantity, as all units remained faithful to the call of duty and their oath to the Ukrainian nation.

In response to all these insinuations, and the flows of mendacious information disseminated by dirty politicos and corrupt journalists, we – officers, warrant officers and sailors of the Ukrainian Navy – openly declare that we will honestly carry out our soldier’s duty till the end, we will defend our country and the Ukrainian people as we have been doing through all the years of independence, not for the sake of posts or salaries, but because this is our land and we cherish the lives of every person who lives on this land regardless of nationality.

Godspeed to them.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Have we ever had a more fatuous Secretary of State than John Kerry?

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**Posted by Phineas

We're doomed.

We’re doomed.

Really, all that seems able to come out of that mouth of his is an endless stream of meaningless blather that would make Sir Humphrey Appleby proud.

Courtesy of Hot Air, this is what Kerry had to say about the Ukraine crisis yesterday:

Secretary of State John Kerry said that “all options are on the table” when it comes to steps the U.S. can take to hold Russia accountable for its military movements in Ukraine, including economic sanctions and potentially military action.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos today on “This Week,” Kerry said Russian troops moving into the Ukrainian region of Crimea was “a military act of aggression” and that the U.S. will move swiftly to impose penalties if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not withdraw his troops.

While military force is among the options President Barack Obama is considering, Kerry said the U.S. and its allies hope they can avoid such action.

“The hope of the U.S. and everybody in the world is not to see this escalate into a military confrontation,” he said.

The indirect language of diplomacy uses phrases that convey very specific messages without putting the other side publicly on the spot, in a situation where he cannot back down without being humiliated. And when you say “all options are on the table,” John, that includes military action. You’re essentially telling the other side that, should we not get satisfaction, we’re willing to go to war. This is the kind of talk you do not engage in lightly, especially when dealing with another nuclear power. The very idea of a “military option” in Ukraine is insane for any number of reasons.

I wonder if Kerry even knows what the words he’s saying actually mean. If he doesn’t, he’s a bigger dunce than I thought, which would be impressive. If he does and somehow thinks that will intimidate Vladimir Putin, then he’s dangerously incompetent. Putin has taken the measure of the Obama administration after years of watching it in action, and he knows darn well their threats are meaningless. After abandoning Poland and the Czech Republic over missile defense, after the laughable reset button, after cutting and running in Iraq and Afghanistan, and after the disaster of Obama’s Syria policy, Putin knows any threats from this American administration are empty. He probably rolled his eyes and laughed when Kerry said all options were on the table.

Then there was this:

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “stunning, willful” choice to invade Ukrainian territory and warned of possible sanctions.

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country,” Kerry said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” one of several appearances on network interview shows.

“It’s serious in terms of the modern manner in which countries resolve problems,” Kerry said.

“That’s not the act of somebody who’s strong,” Kerry added, saying Putin is acting out of “weakness” and “desperation.”

I can think of many ways to describe President Putin, but “weak” and “desperate” wouldn’t even occur to me.

On the contrary, Vladimir Putin is a revanchist thug who, seeing that Washington won’t do anything meaningful (1) to oppose him, is going to push as hard as he can until someone dares to make him stop. His goal is not just to rebuild the Russian/Soviet empire, but forge a Eurasian Union (2) as an alternative bloc against the US and the EU. The bleatings of a Boston Brahmin about Putin being out of step with the times are meaningless to him

Secretary of State John Kerry (3) embodies the ideals of liberal internationalism, and brutal realist Vladimir Putin is showing just how empty they and he are.

Footnotes:
(1) For a sketch of the meaningful things we could do to stand up to Putin’s thuggery, check out Tom Rogan’s recommendations, especially that to, borrowing a phrase, “drill, baby, drill.”
(2) This is some scary stuff.
(3) To think he almost became president in 2004. I may have nightmares.

UPDATE: Speaking of Putin’s “weakness and desperation”…

Crimea Russia Ukraine mobile artillery

Those, my friends, are Russian mobile artillery pieces. On Ukrainian territory. Don’t they look weak and desperate? (h/t Jim Geraghty)

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Asking for trouble: the Obama-Hagel defense budget

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**Posted by Phineas

U.S. Navy, post-Obama

U.S. Navy, post-Obama

Long ago, the Roman writer Vegetius wrote perhaps the wisest thing anyone has ever written regarding war and peace:

“If you want peace, prepare for war.”

In other words, if your potential foes know you are strong, that you are willing to use force to defend your interests, and that they are not likely to win, then they will not pick a fight with you.

President Obama and his dullard Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, have evidently never read Vegetius:

Stating that a postwar environment was the time to do some shrinking, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled a budget proposal Monday that reduces the Army to pre-World War II levels despite “a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States.”

“Our force structure and modernization recommendations are rooted in three realities: first, after Iraq and Afghanistan, we are no longer sizing the military to conduct long and large stability operations; second, we must maintain our technological edge over potential adversaries; and, third, the military must be ready and capable to respond quickly to all contingencies and decisively defeat any opponent should deterrence fail,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon today.

You can read the details in Bridget Johnson’s article, but, quickly, the Army would be reduced to 450,000 soldiers, the Marine Corps to 182,000, the Navy would be kept at 11 carrier battle groups (unless further cuts are needed), and, among other cuts, the Air Force would eliminate its entire force of A-10 “warthog” ground-support aircraft. I’m sure infantrymen everywhere are thrilled with that one.

Hagel’s opening statement is nonsensical: in one breath he proposes devastating cuts to our military capabilities, while, in the other, he claims (rightly) that the world is growing “more volatile, more unpredictable,” and “more threatening.” When he claims this configuration will allow us to defend ourselves from foes by relying on high tech, he ignores his own assertion that the world is unpredictable. Who knew on September 10th, 2001, in the wake of the Clinton-era defense cuts, that we would find ourselves in a war that required liberating and occupying two nations? While we are leaving Afghanistan and have left Iraq (God help them), we are still at war with a transnational terror group waging holy war against us. What if they should take over another country as a base (Syria? Mali? Iraq, again?)?  Do we then shrug our shoulders and say “No can do?” What if North Korea decides to invade the South, again? Those A-10s will be sorely missed, I guarantee it.

Those are just two among the myriad possible threats we face as dictators grow emboldened by our feckless leadership. When Ronald Reagan launched our military buildup in the 1980s, it wasn’t just to have plenty of ships and tanks on hand, it was to demonstrate a will to resist the world’s tyrants, so that they would make no miscalculation. The Obama-Hagel defense cuts, on the other hand send just the opposite message, one of weakness and a lack of confidence, of opportunity for the enemy because this administration is renouncing our traditional role as guarantor of a liberal world order.

And it’s deliberate. In an essay that now seems truly prescient, Charles Krauthammer made it plain that, for an ideology that sees American power as a problem, not a solution, for the world’s challenges, decline is a choice, one made in sacrifice to the desire to turn the US into a gelded European social democracy:

This is not the place to debate the intrinsic merits of the social democratic versus the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism. There’s much to be said for the decency and relative equity of social democracy. But it comes at a cost: diminished social mobility, higher unemployment, less innovation, less dynamism and creative destruction, less overall economic growth.

This affects the ability to project power. Growth provides the sinews of dominance–the ability to maintain a large military establishment capable of projecting power to all corners of the earth. The Europeans, rich and developed, have almost no such capacity. They made the choice long ago to devote their resources to a vast welfare state. Their expenditures on defense are minimal, as are their consequent military capacities. They rely on the U.S. Navy for open seas and on the U.S. Air Force for airlift. It’s the U.S. Marines who go ashore, not just in battle, but for such global social services as tsunami relief. The United States can do all of this because we spend infinitely more on defense–more than the next nine countries combined.

Those are the conditions today. But they are not static or permanent. They require constant renewal. The express agenda of the New Liberalism is a vast expansion of social services–massive intervention and expenditures in energy, health care, and education–that will necessarily, as in Europe, take away from defense spending.

This shift in resources is not hypothetical. It has already begun. At a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being lavished on stimulus and other appropriations in an endless array of domestic programs, the defense budget is practically frozen. Almost every other department is expanding, and the Defense Department is singled out for making “hard choices”–forced to look everywhere for cuts, to abandon highly advanced weapons systems, to choose between readiness and research, between today’s urgencies and tomorrow’s looming threats.

That was in 2009, and now we’re seeing the inevitable product of that vast expansion of the welfare state. And the world is going to become much more dangerous because of it.

To paraphrase Vegetius, “If you want war, pretend your enemy wants peace.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)