Patterns of disengagement, disarmament, and decline

(Hilton Head, S.C.) Tim Scott- the first African –American United States Senator from the South since the 19th century- is a conservative Republican who will cruise to a lopsided electoral victory in November.

Today he is holding one of a series of “Town Hall” meetings to hear from his constituents. Given South Carolina’s profusion of defense installations and high concentration of military retirees, it is not surprising to hear many of the speakers, identify themselves as veterans, several of whom had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

While these veterans are pleased with Scott’s strong advocacy on defense issues, they are deeply displeased with the National Security policies of the Obama Administration. A particular focus of their distress is the President’s proposed Defense Budget which would reduce the U.S. Army to its lowest level since before World War II.

Other well informed questions touch on confused or failing U.S. policies regarding North Korea, Syria, Iran, Palestine, and Ukraine.

Seen in larger perspective what these Americans and many others are seeing is the real meaning of the phrase “Leading from Behind”: policies with the conscious intent of gradual disengagement from America’s historic role of Leader of the Free World and the incremental disarmament of the U.S. military that has been the indispensable guarantor of that Leadership. All of this is necessary to facilitate the “Transformation of American Society” that Obama promised in 2008- albeit without telling people exactly what that meant.

In 2008 I wrote an article entitled “The Europeanization of the Democratic Party” which described the party’s long term project of transforming America into a European style Social Democracy. At that time few people could imagine how rapidly that project would be advanced in just five years.

In essence European Social Democracies are Welfare States characterized by very large entitlement programs and very small military establishments. Historically they relied on the United States as the ultimate guarantor of their national security and over time conceded significant elements of their sovereignty to Supra-National organizations such as the U.N., NATO, and most importantly the European Union.

For a long time these arrangements seemed to work rather well, but in more recent years serious structural problems have arisen. The general ethnic and religious homogeneity of these nations has been unsettled by successive waves of immigrants who tended not to assimilate easily. More alarmingly decreasing birth rates and increasing life expectancy threatened the sustainability of the entitlement programs that were the very foundation of these societies.

Needless to say these and other problems were greatly compounded by economic and political instabilities brought on by the World-wide Recession.

Belatedly European Social Democrats have realized that a growing government is ultimately the enemy of a growing economy. Thus they are haunted by Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum “the problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”.

It is highly ironic that just as Europe is learning the limits of redistributive social democracy, the United States is accelerating its pace down the same dead end street.

However an even greater danger is now on the horizon. As America under Obama continues to shrink its role of leadership, we see a rising trajectory of totalitarian threats around the world. North Korean missiles, a nuclear Iran, Syrian genocide, an increasingly assertive Communist China, and Putin’s naked territorial aggression all present the most dangerous challenges to a divided and ever more demilitarized West.

While ominous these trend lines are not irreversible. These challenges can be met, but only if there is the requisite Will and Leadership to do so.

Decline is not inevitable; in the sage formulation of Charles Krauthammer “Decline is a Choice”.
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William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, and Human Events.

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