With his thoughtful restructuring of America’s military, secretary of defense Chuck Hagel — a Republican — has cemented Obama’s signature legacy: restoring America to a peacetime footing. Obama’s bringing American troops home from two wars, and, now, reducing the military to a strong, but proportionate, peacetime footing, was not easy.
Doing so required something of a political miracle. Obama, with a critical assist from Hagel, is pulling it off.
This columnist has critiqued many of Obama’s initiatives. The president’s follies in other areas detract from but do not diminish his real achievement here.
Bringing about peace is remarkable, historic, and transformational. Future historians almost certainly will scratch their heads as to how Obama’s own White House wrapped the boss’s prestige around Obamacare, a botch, rather putting to the fore the president’s greatest achievement.
An aside. Current events in Crimea are unlikely to destroy Obama’s achievement. While Kiev, understandably, and the West express alarm … what’s happening now in Ukraine presents more as chess rather than hand grenades. Putin is an autocrat (and geopolitical chess grandmaster), yet no brutal tyrant in the Stalin mode. Russian military intervention in Crimea appears based on securing a fundamental Russian asset — its sole warm water port — and protection of ethnic Russians living there.
President Reagan’s stated reason for invading Grenada (and deposing the government there, something Putin studiedly has not shown signs of attempting in Ukraine) was to protect 800 American medical students. Putin is not neo-imperialist. This predicament is likely to end with a Russian-led bailout of an insolvent Ukraine. The severe difficulties in Ukraine shall pass without reigniting the Cold War.
Meanwhile, over two years ago, Obama astutely observed, in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, that “the tide of war is receding. … Moreover we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength.”