The holiday season is approaching; let’s be optimists. The American glass is much more than half full. We are still the most powerful nation earth. We still have the largest and most dynamic economy on earth. We are the most diverse and inventive nation on earth. Billions of people would choose to live here if they could. By any measure, the United States has been the preeminent country in the world since World War II.
That said, a solid majority of Americans believe that we are on the wrong track, and Donald Trump gets a strong response with his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”. The problem is not where we are, it is the trajectory. Let’s look at what Barack Obama’s “Hope and Change” presidency has done to the position of the United States in the world.
1. The most obvious area of contention is the military. In absolute terms, we spend some $570 billion on our military – over four times second place China, and more than the next seven countries combined. At 3.5% of GDP this is behind Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Russia, but ahead of just about every other significant player. A reasonable percentage of the largest economy gives a dominant military. But there are four issues:
– The 2011 Budget Control Act – passed by a combination of Democrats who favored domestic spending and Republican deficit hawks who prioritized fiscal integrity – reduced projected spending over the following decade by $500 billion, representing a 9% cut across the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. The impact has been softened by paying for operations in the Middle East “off the books”, but there is enough pain to bring cries from defense contractors, military leaders, and Republican politicians. Active duty military personnel have declined from about 1,400,000 in 2008 to about 1,350,000 today with the difference largely coming from the Army. (The current budget deal restores half of the FY2016 military and domestic spending cuts, much to the chagrin of the fiscal conservatives. More on this another day.)
– Most of our NATO allies fall short of the 2% of GDP minimum required by the alliance. While there was a meaningful NATO participation in Afghanistan and Iraq during the Bush presidency, there has been little enthusiasm to engage militarily in the Middle East during the Obama era. Few want to be in front if we lead from behind.
– As President Obama announced in 2014 and is apparent today, there is no strategy to use the US military to defeat ISIS. At least on the margin, how the military is used is more important than how large it is.
– The president has agreed that, in the best of cases, Iran will be able to join the nuclear weapons club in 15 years.
2. America’s dominant position in the world economy is being diminished. Some of this is inevitable, with China’s economy growing at 7+ % per and ours struggling along at under 2%; some is despite the administrations efforts; some just slips by under the radar.
– The Trans-Pacific Partnership reached with 11 other Pacific rim countries (excluding China) offers a chance for America to re-assert leadership in alignment with the administration’s “pivot to Asia” – if it can pass Congress, and if it is implemented by an administration which understands our position of strength. Let’s give credit where it is due.
– But, in the realm of “Oh, I think that I heard something about that”: The International Monetary Fund has accepted the Chinese yuan as an official “reserve currency” along with the euro, the Japanese yen, and the British pound, setting the stage for a less influenti[mc_name name=’Rep. Al Green (D-TX)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’G000553′ ]back; several western allies have signed on with the China-centric Asian Investment Bank – a competitor of the US/Europe-centric World Bank; and it has been necessary for Congress to block the administration’s attempt to turn over ICANN, the hub of the internet which assigns domain names among other things, to an international organization for no apparent reason other than to appease critics of NSA spying. (US invention and domination of the Internet has played a major role in its development and open structure.)
3. When one ponders the Left’s enthusiasm for the “global warming” narrative, the answer is summarized in the Paris Conference premise that world leaders have agreed to act as one to fundamentally transform the global economy, destroying companies and countries that have been preeminent in a carbon energy economy – and forcing the evil developed world to pay $100 billion to the poorer countries to subsidize their efforts to develop green energy. With the United States possessing the world’s greatest coal and oil deposits, it is not too hard to see where President Obama would like to take us in the interest of global fairness.
It really is not too late. (Re-read paragraph 1.) But, it is imperative that the trajectory be reversed. Those pondering the 2016 Republican field should recognize that there are two questions – who would be the best president?, and who has the greatest probability of being elected? Within the top 10 candidates, the second question is the only one which matters.
This week’s video is a short politically incorrect discussion of “climate change” by one of the founders of GreenPeace.
www.RightinSanFrancisco.com – 12/17/2015