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But the president won’t be confused by the facts. Instead, he recently embraced plans for a massive defense cut of $487 billion. Many forget that the Pentagon had already coughed up $400 billion in cuts, which the president ordered in 2010-11.
There will be consequences. Even Defense Secretary Panetta concedes that the cuts will create “risks.” His predecessor explained the risks and consequences in philosophical terms: “If we are going to reduce the resources and the size of the U.S. military,” Secretary Gates warned, “people need to make conscious choices about what the implications are for the security of the country…The tough choices ahead are really about the kind of role the American people—accustomed to unquestioned military dominance for the past two decades—want their country to play in the world.”
In other words, there’s a cost to maintaining a peerless power-projecting military, but there’s also a cost to not doing so. The GOP nominee should talk about the choices and the costs.
That brings us to global leadership. President Obama deserves credit for eliminating Osama bin Laden. It was decisive and bold. But it also was an anomaly, as we now know.
This is, after all, the administration that found a way to lead in two directions in Egypt. Recall that his secretary of state and vice president initially offered strong support for Hosni Mubarak, before the president pulled the rug out from under America’s longtime ally.
When not leading in two directions, the president is not leading at all. Iran in 2009 and Syria today are cases in point. In response to Iran’s Twitter Revolution in 2009, President Obama sat silent. The sad irony of his non-response to the stirrings of revolution in Iran was that it answered his own rhetorical question of a year before, albeit in a manner his supporters would never have imagined. “Will we stand for the human rights of…the blogger in Iran?” he asked. The Iranian people know the answer.
Likewise, in Syria—one of those unique cases where conscience and national interest overlap—the president has been inexplicably silent and inactive. Instead, the Turks and the Arab League are leading the way.
The president also has led in the wrong direction at times, as in Afghanistan (where his commanders got far fewer troops than they requested and were given far less time than they were initially promised), Iraq (where his commanders’ advice to leave behind a stabilizing force was ignored) and Eastern Europe. The president desperately wanted to ink an arms control treaty of questionable merit with Russia, so he scrapped plans for a permanent defense against missile threats in Eastern Europe—plans that had been endorsed by NATO and by host governments in Poland and the Czech Republic. A Polish defense official called the decision “catastrophic.” And a Czech official angrily rejected the president’s new plan as “a consolation prize.”
Finally, this president seems most comfortable with “leading from behind,” as one administration official describes the Obama Doctrine. This form of non-leadership was showcased during NATO’s eight-month-long air war over Libya. As Britain and France strained to try to do what the United States used to do effortlessly, the White House talked about a “time-limited, scope-limited” mission; the president promised that America’s military would play a “supporting role” while its allies staggered; and incredibly—laughably, if it were not a matter of life and death—when NATO asked Washington to extend air operations at one critical point in the mission, a NATO official took pains to emphasize that the extension of U.S. air power “expires on Monday.”
That’s what passes for U.S. leadership under this president, and voters need to understand this.
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