Tuesday, February 25, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Obama Abdicates?

It is now becoming very clear that the true legacy of
President Barack Obama’s terms in the White House
might not be his disastrous “Obamacare” legislation
that was costumed as reform. Instead, Mr Obama might
be remembered as the first modern president to
abdicate. That is, to abdicate the role of the United
States in the world.

The latest announcement that Secretary  of Defense
Chuck Hagel proposes to cut back the U.S. military to
pre-World War II levels is only the latest evidence in
a relentless pattern of the Obama government to
change our relationships of world alliances, withdraw
from world conflicts, and ignore global security threats.

We should not be surprised. These are the views of a
relatively small but vocal and mostly academic liberal
group of Americans, views which are neither new nor
original, but which have not been part of the mainstream
of American politics.

These kinds of views first surfaced, in more modest form,
in President Jimmy Carter’s White House. Cutting the
defense budget was always the goal of the left wing of the
Democratic Party (as it has also become a goal of the
libertarian wing of the Republican Party), but the
accompanying inevitable loss of U.S. influence in the
world, and risky diminishment of U.S. national security,
meant that it could not attain true popular support in the
nation, especially after September 11, 2001.

Today, however, there is an ambivalence in public
opinion about America’s role in the world as a superpower,
especially after our experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and
the volatile conditions of the Islamic states of North
Africa. Deteriorating conditions in North Korea and in
our relationship with an emerging China superpower, and
the rise of anti-American totalitarian states in the Caribbean,
Central and South America, further feeds the anxiety of
Americans in an increasingly more complex and dangerous
global environment.

With no further appearance before the American electorate
ahead, and an unpromising mid-term election imminent,
Mr. Obama has apparently decided that there is no time to
lose in making clear what he has always believed --- that is,
it is time for the United States to step down from its leading
role in the world.

Recently, the world has observed the abdication of some
elderly European monarchs (who had only ceremonial power)
in favor of their children. One senior monarch, perhaps the
most famous in the world, has not done so. Queen Elizabeth II
has assigned some of her duties to her aging son, the Prince of
Wales, but she will not abdicate. She remembers the only
British king to do so, her uncle Edward VIII who renounced
the throne “for the woman I love” in 1936, thus propelling her
father to become King George VI. History shows that Edward
VIII, later the Duke of Windsor, was ill-prepared for even the
limited responsibility of leading his people as the Nazi threat
engulfed the continent and the world (in fact, he was a Nazi
sympathizer and perhaps a traitor). Queen Elizabeth’s father,
a shy man and a stammerer, however, stepped in with steady
courage. Britain, once the world’s super power, faced invasion
and extinction, but the British people, with the aid of its
former colony, the United States, prevailed. As in  and after
World War I, Great Britain and the U.S. became close allies in
the post-war and Cold War period.

Even as the U.S. and Europe moved into a more competitive
relationship after the end of the Cold War and the rise of
the European Union, the ties between the U.S. and United
Kingdom remained strong. Similarly, from the outset of the
creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jewish nation was
our best ally in the Middle East.  Now, the Obama
administration has been moving away from these alliances
(all the while proclaiming their solidarity). The U.S. alliance
with Taiwan (nationalist China) was a bipartisan hallmark
of the Cold War. Today, mainland China increasingly has
asserted her influence in the Asian region. While this is
understandable, it presents the U.S. with certain conflicts of
its national interests. A voluntary and dramatic decline of U.S.
naval and air power is a clear public statement in that part of
the world.

So the primary legacy of President Obama might be his
policy of a New Isolationism, an abdication of U.S. power
“for the philosophy I love.” Long after “Obamacare” could
be forgotten, this is what his presidency might well be
remembered for by historians --- and by his successors who try
to repair its consequences.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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