In many respects, this 2012 manifesto is really Candidate Obama 2008's retreat from the Global War on Terror camouflaged in Pentagonese. The president's introduction claims "we have responsibly ended the war in Iraq, put al-Qaida on the path to defeat ... and made significant progress in Afghanistan, allowing us to begin the transition to Afghan responsibility."
Agree on al-Qaida's path, but Iraq ended responsibly? That's arguable from many angles, to include the assertion that it's ended and we left responsibly. Obama's failure to commit a residual force to Iraq may have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory; we don't know yet. But the tout is campaign sloganeering. Progress in Afghanistan is, like the country, fragmentary. "Transition" (it's Pentagon jargon) can mean anything, but signaling retreat isn't smart diplomacy.
Obama 2008, however, ran on ending Iraq, ending the GWOT (remember, he called it an overseas contingency operation) and closing Guantanamo Bay. The manifesto doesn't mention Gitmo. It does mention denying Iran nukes, which may take waging war and require ground forces. Wait, Obama derided George Bush for preparing to attack Iran's hideous regime ...
The administration may not have thought this phrase through, either; it asserts the strategy "supports the national security imperative of deficit reduction through a lower level of defense spending."
Reducing the deficit, which makes profound strategic sense, requires reductions in all federal spending, particularly entitlements. Obama, however, is loathe to make such cuts; he might look like a tea partier. Instead, he panders to left-wing ideologues and just spends less on defense.
The manifesto ends with truly vague, and insidious, Pentagonese. See, the document "is designed to ensure our Armed Forces can meet the demands of the U.S. National Security Strategy at acceptable risk." Before the president starts cutting, let's ask him, or his teleprompter, to define "acceptable risk."
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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