Tags: American Primacy, Defense Budget, Democratic Party, Missile Defense
The Obama campaign was consistently centered around the ambiguous theme of change (after “hope”) and successfully marketed it to the American people. The question now becomes, will this be selective change or drastic change? After all, while Americans have given President Bush a low approval rating, not only does his approval rise when asked about certain issues, the vote of last Tuesday should not be seen as a total repudiation of Bush Administration policies. There is, still, wide consensus on a number of issues. Also, the percentage of people identifying themselves as liberal and conservative remained steady (despite the fact Rasmussen found that Democrats were four times as likely to want to take an exit poll). So where does President-Elect Obama fit in on missile defense?
In fact, by searching all the transcripts of the Democratic debates, the subject of missile defense comes up once. And that was by Senator Chris Dodd, who said we need a different set of priorities from missile defense (“investing in the bridges and the highways and the water systems” to be exact). This is indicative of the Democratic Party’s stance on a vital defense issue. They know it is popular, according to a Gallup survey in April 2002 (the most recent available), respondents supported the deployment of missile defense by 64% to 30%. To oppose, cut, or reverse it is, then, a losing issue for Obama.
In the first presidential debate, Obama stated that “we are spending billions of dollars on missile defense. And I actually believe that we need missile defense…but I also believe that, when we are only spending a few hundred million dollars on nuclear proliferation, then we’re making a mistake.” Never mind the fact that counterproliferation is much cheaper than missile defense (MD) by definition, his solution is to cut MD and funnel some of the money to inhibiting nuclear proliferation. Though it sounds like a good idea, proliferation has been kept largely in check (there is no deterring regimes like Iran or North Korea from pursuing nuclear programs with “friends” like Russia or China nearby) by current efforts.
Obama, along with most other Democrats, has stated that MD needed to be “proven” before it is deployed (see the youtube clip). “Proven” has become a code-word for bringing something back to the drawing board and indefinitely suspending it because there is always the chance it will not work 100% of the time. So what does this mean for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA)? Expect to see the airborne laser system scrapped completely, the R&D funding for space-based systems eradicated, and a minimal deployment (less than 30) of ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California. On a side note, Obama will likely be forced to move ahead with the “third site” in Europe due to Russia’s bellicose rhetoric about placing missiles in Kaliningrad. To not do so would be international weakness not seen since Kennedy’s meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna.
So far, it seems like the programs Obama would have cut are the ones that are, admittedly, years away from deployment. But, enter Barney Frank stage left with this quote. The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae fame) believes the US can cut the defense budget by an astounding 25%. Such an unprecedented cut would come not just from ending the war in Iraq but also from MD and other future weapons systems. Where, therefore, does “pragmatic, centrist” Obama mesh with the most-liberal-Senator-in-the-Senate Obama?
Despite extraordinary progress in the past eight years in the area of missile defense, Obama is likely going to set his “scapel” (or hatchet) to missile defense and bring it down to Clinton-era levels. How else does he expect to pay for his massive health-care, tax rebates, and auto bailout plans? “Proven” systems like the Aegis destroyers, SM-3 interceptrs, PAC-3 terminal missile defenses may survive the bloodletting. But the goal of a layered sea, land, and air-based defense that could intercept missiles in their boost, midcourse, or terminal phases will be gone for four years. If China or North Korea were looking for the opportune moment to launch an electromagnetic pulse attack or threaten nuclear blackmail, the next four years look pretty promsing to them. As Obama makes abundantly clear in this primary-era ad (which you must watch), American primacy is not at the top of his priority list. His pipe dream (or “smack,” since I guess he can afford it now) involves a world without nuclear weapons or rapidly developed combat systems. Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Tehran, and Caracus must be euphoric.
For the Wages of Obama… November 5, 2008Posted by Sean Varner in Election 2008, Politics, President Obama, U.S. Foreign Relations, Uncategorized.
Tags: American Primacy, Election 2008, Foreign Policy, President Obama
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Barack H. Obama has become the President Elect of the United States of America. After 22 months of constant campaigning he was finally able to seal the deal. Aided by a cult of personality constructed by the youth and minorities, a reverent media, a war chest that would make the Spanish Empire blush, and perhaps the only major financial crisis to occur at the height of an election, Obama was able to essentially cruise to victory as long as he did not make any mistakes and appeared presidential.
What, then, are the consequences of this admittedly historic election? The American people should be prepared to reap what they have sown. In electing possibly the most inexperienced candidate since William Jennings Bryan, they have virtually ensured that America’s primacy in the world will recede. Obama has exhibited his desire to be a citizen of the world, and it is exceedingly unlikely that he would stand up for America in international relations. The reason so many of our European allies preferred him so strongly is that they know they can walk all over him and make themselves equal in stature to the US. Russia, China, and Venezuela know that Obama will not stand up to them and that they will essentially have a free ride to engage in whatever behavior they choose over the next four years (bad news for Ukraine and Taiwan).
An insight into Obama’s foreign policy can also be gleaned from reports that he would appoint Samantha Power to be his Secretary of State. Power is very much a part of the Madeline Albright school of foreign affairs, also known as “intervention when the interests of the United States are not at stake.” She would also elevate the issue of human rights as a reason for military intervention to an unprecedented degree. In other words, troops will likely be diverted away from Iraq and to areas like Darfur, Somalia, and other 3rd world regions experiencing turmoil. As Obama adopts this Clinton-esque approach to US troop deployment, expect Iran to quickly finish development of its nuclear program and for China to modernize its military at an even more breakneck pace.
What, then, does the election of Barack Obama to the presidency mean for the United States? In their euphoria to rid the White House of a Republican occupant, the voters have signaled to our allies and enemies alike that the US would like to withdraw from its position in the world. While we will not be isolationist, we will certainly not be able to exert the same degree of influence and power we could under George W. Bush. Every foreign leader knows Obama is weak and, per Joe Biden’s prediction, they will test him very soon. And if he does not prove to be strong, resistant, or stubborn, it is a virtual certainty they will continue to push the envelope and engage in more assertive or aggressive behavior.
These, therefore, are the wages of an Obama presidency. The US, which has held a position of primacy in the world since the end of the Cold War, will begin a retreat in the face of assertive allies and aggressive rivals. American allies encircling China may hedge their strategies by pursuing a more neutral course or approaching Beijing. Previously enthusiastic Eastern European/Caucasus nations yearning to join NATO may instead realign themselves to friendlier relationships with Moscow, fearing the US would not come to their aid. It is unarguable that McCain would have maintained American primacy in the world during his one-term presidency. Unfortunately, there is no going back from here and buyer’s remorse will not solve our problems. The next four years will in all likelihood witness the most dramatic weakening of America’s status in the world since the end of the Vietnam War.