Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Speech

You know which speech I'm talking about, don't you?

Yes, it was a quilt of platitudes, strawmen, self-exculpations, and retroactive Inspector Clouseau-like ("I did that on purpose") rationalizations. Yes, The Won is straining to rescue an iota of respect from the ash heap of his foreign policy. To do so, he attacked claims no one ever made and positions no one ever took. He also impugned the character of the entire American military by asserting that now it will be sent forth to do "right," as if it hadn't already been doing so for more than two centuries.

That a president of these United States could have made such a speech to a West Point graduating class is utterly dumbfounding. It speaks of a degree of narcissistic self-absorption comparable to that of Elliot Rodger, and an un-self-awareness more commonly attributed to sponges and bivalves.

All the same, this justly derided speech did contain the tiniest groat of good sense, if only by implication. Many of our contemporary troubles in international relations can be traced to having over-promised our military -- having guaranteed the peace and security of many other nations by promising, whether formally or otherwise, that we would regard an attack on one of them as an attack on the United States and would respond in kind.

We didn't have to do that...at least, not as commitments unbounded in time.


Barack Hussein Obama despises the military. I have no doubt, given his treatment of our armed forces these past six years, that he wishes the duties of commander-in-chief were no part of the presidency. The capstone to this demonstration was his appointment of Chuck Hagel, the sole Republican Senator hostile to the military in recent memory, to be the Secretary of Defense -- and then to put Hagel in charge of America's military emasculation.

But our military overextension is a real problem. Mind you, we're not fighting on lots of fronts at the moment. But we maintain bases and troops in many countries, as supports for our security guarantees to others. We keep a large fraction of our blue-water navy at sea for deterrence and power projection. And of course, we remain critical members in NATO and in less formal agreements with several other nations.

Chief among the consequences has been the military enfeeblement of virtually the whole of Europe. There isn't one NATO nation -- apart from the U.S., of course -- that could maintain its borders against an attack from the east, and our good pal Vladimir Putin knows it. Tragically, we're also co-guarantors of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, which was Ukraine's price for the surrender of its nuclear forces after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. We can see how that's working out. So can the Baltic states, upon which Putin has openly cast a covetous eye.

Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are also dependent upon American security guarantees -- and all three are being harshly tested by the Red Chinese. Japan's constitution, written under the supervision of the post-World War II American occupation, explicitly forbids the nation to send military forces outside its borders. It doesn't contain an explicit limit on how large the Japanese military can grow, but it's well documented that the government has adhered to a military spending limit of 1% of the nation's GDP. We have "tripwire" forces in South Korea, stationed under the baleful regard of many thousands of North Korean artillery pieces, which would be first to die in the event of an attack from the north. And of course, we've kept at least one carrier battle group near Taiwan for decades to deter the Red Chinese, even as we've repeatedly hedged about whether Taiwan is an independent sovereignty.

Add to that the large number of arduous non-military missions our men at arms are asked to undertake. It's a wonder the edifice hasn't already collapsed.


The worst thing a nation can do is to assume the burden of defending another nation.

The truly dangerous states are aware of what has followed from our disastrous set of commitments. It's obvious that the Ukrainian territorial guarantee to which America and Russia are signatories means nothing to Vladimir Putin. Moreover, given the history of the region, the Ukrainian government must have had a lapse of sanity to accept it. It was the rationale for the dismantling of the greater part of Ukraine's own armed forces, such that should Putin decide to strike "for the safety of the Ukrainian people," there'll be little significant resistance. Nor is it at all likely that the U.S. would enter the fray, given the geographical context and our military's current weariness.

The "beneficiaries" of our overcommitments support opulent welfare states that have proved to be nutrient-rich habitats for idlers, immigrants from hostile cultures, and worst of all, persons who actively want to see America brought low. Those nations could not have done this to themselves (and us) except for our military largesse. The expense of properly national militaries that would at least give pause to a would-be attacker would have prevented it, to say nothing of the salutary effect it would have had on the aggregate patriotism and national pride of those countries.

Had we been less generously inclined after World War II, and less confident of our indefinite capability to bear the burden of the world's peace on our shoulders, this would not have come about. But then, had we refrained from building the Soviet Union into a world-class military power with American aid, it might never have occurred to us to do such a thing.


Our mistakes in this venue cannot easily be undone. Indeed, it's possible that it would take another world-girdling war even to begin. But it's vital that we see them clearly and admit that, whatever the intentions of the early post-war administrations that first framed our excessive commitments, they chose the wrong course.

This is not to subtract one iota from the clearly delusive narcissism and antipathy to American power Barack Obama exhibited in his West Point speech. That's a problem of another kind. But even from the mouth of so arrogant and foolish a man, there will sometimes come a hint of a truth we should seriously ponder. And so it is with the above.

7 comments:

  1. Not much that I could add that I already haven't, other than:
    If we left South Korea to it's own devices, they would likely be up to the task of their own defense.
    Despite the happy talk from various politicians there will be no German-style reunification there, the average Kim on the street doesn't really want them.
    With Japan, if China decided to do a full-fledged invasion even with the US's help, they'd be screwed.
    For three reasons, by average age, Japan is the oldest country on Earth - for the last three years adult diapers have outsold baby ones. Many of the youth of Japan are just as 'soft' as their elders as well. And finally, the population of Japan is (est.) 125 million vs. the population of China (est.) 1.3 billion.
    China could raise a rag-tag untrained army of 200 million men and overwhelm Japan by sheer numbers and they might even see the losses as a good thing for China.
    I'm not saying we should abandon the Japanese, but I'm putting it realistically how vulnerable they are - even with our help.

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  2. The green light our commitment to Europe was a green light to their foppery, loosely speaking. It may have been a good thing, however, as Europe was going to play with fire one way or another. Look at how socialism planted deep roots in Britain. So, perhaps we have accelerated the day of reckoning where socialist economics are concerned, to wit, What can't go on eventually won't. And then it doesn't. Apologies to Herb Stein.

    The freeloading infuriated me, it did. Clinton's interference in Bosnia and Serbia even more so. He wet his pants to do it and with national security rationale to match The Interloper's re Syria. It was a European problem, if ever there were one, but we went in like the Enterprise in the grip of a Klingon tractor beam.

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  3. are we certain that military overextension does not suit obummers purposes? if tstf here in a way that suits the communist-in-chief, not having them here to defend against enemies domestic would be very convenient. bho's veteran enemies isolated overseas, broken and lost would not cause him to shed tears.

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  4. Anon, I am sure it does but there are still substantial forces still here in the U.S. I don't think the troops overseas are broken and lost. Sorely abused is more like it. I'm sure the irony also isn't lost on them that they're out there fighting against or on behalf of foreigners but can't even lift a finger to stem the invasion across the U.S.-Mexican border.

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  5. col b - my concern is if / when events take on a pace of their own. 200 + command level purge leaving here a hollowed shell, and a suddenly 'broken' and forfeit supply lines leaving the abused overseas with dwindling resources and locked in place - ripe for the picking by surrounding hostiles and his dhs private army. treason from within that would be, but i'll bet you my hat their game theories include that scenario.

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  6. I see your point. I wouldn't put it past Obama. Not one action he's taken advances any national interest. Debt has soared, the economy has stagnated, corporate tax rate remains the highest in the world, Obama initiated a war on coal, etc. What else is driving this but a malevolent purpose?

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  7. power. imagine a boot on a human face, forever.

    how to address that evil without partaking - thus we type our agreement.

    until the evil acts in offense, and that offense cannot be hidden. its a game of chicken. or as beck said, all politics in this country now are dress rehearsal for civil war.

    very astute.

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