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Ed Driscoll

Elections Have Consquences

January 9th, 2013 - 3:58 pm

“Who is responsible for Hagel’s nomination? The American people, really,” Jay Nordlinger writes:

 They chose Obama over Mitt Romney on November 6. Elections have consequences. Hagel reflects Obama’s thinking, particularly on the Middle East. Romney would have named a much, much different secretary of defense.

In a democracy, people get what they deserve (I never tire of saying). At least the majority does. Hagel is the kind of defense secretary the American people asked for, when they reelected Obama.

They could block him, if they wanted — by flooding their senators with letters and phone calls, crying out against Hagel. But they won’t.

Maybe they’ll choose more wisely, next time they have a chance . . .

You know who else might choose more wisely next time? David Brooks, who, as Peter Robinson paraphrases in his headline at Ricochet, describes Hagel as “Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Decline.” Brooks writes:

In a democracy, voters get what they want, so the line tracing federal health care spending looks like the slope of a jet taking off from LaGuardia*. Medicare spending is set to nearly double over the next decade. This is the crucial element driving all federal spending over the next few decades and pushing federal debt to about 250 percent of G.D.P. in 30 years….

Oswald Spengler didn’t get much right, but he was certainly correct when he told European leaders that they could either be global military powers or pay for their welfare states, but they couldn’t do both.

Europeans, who are ahead of us in confronting that decision, have chosen welfare over global power. European nations can no longer perform many elemental tasks of moving troops and fighting. As late as the 1990s, Europeans were still spending 2.5 percent of G.D.P. on defense. Now that spending is closer to 1.5 percent, and, amid European malaise, it is bound to sink further.

The United States will undergo a similar process. The current budget calls for a steep but possibly appropriate decline in defense spending, from 4.3 percent of G.D.P. to 3 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office….

Chuck Hagel has been nominated to supervise the beginning of this generation-long process of defense cutbacks. If a Democratic president is going to slash defense, he probably wants a Republican at the Pentagon to give him political cover, and he probably wants a decorated war hero to boot….

How, in short, will Hagel supervise the beginning of America’s military decline?

No, I’d say our chattering classes supervised that in the mid-naughts, when they chose aesthetics over substance. (See also: Brooks, David.)

Brooks’ response to Hagel’s nomination also brings to mind something Mark Steyn wrote in his “It’s the Demography, Stupid” opus from the start of 2006:

Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the western world will survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most western European countries. There’ll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands— probably—just as in Istanbul there’s still a building called St. Sophia’s Cathedral. But it’s not a cathedral; it’s merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the west.

One obstacle to doing that is the fact that, in the typical election campaign in your advanced industrial democracy, the political platforms of at least one party in the United States and pretty much all parties in the rest of the west are largely about what one would call the secondary impulses of society—government health care, government day care (which Canada’s thinking of introducing), government paternity leave (which Britain’s just introduced). We’ve prioritized the secondary impulse over the primary ones: national defense, family, faith, and, most basic of all, reproductive activity—“Go forth and multiply,” because if you don’t you won’t be able to afford all those secondary-impulse issues, like cradle-to-grave welfare. Americans sometimes don’t understand how far gone most of the rest of the developed world is down this path: In the Canadian and most Continental cabinets, the defense ministry is somewhere an ambitious politician passes through on his way up to important jobs like the health department. I don’t think Don Rumsfeld would regard it as a promotion if he were moved to Health & Human Services.

I bet Hagel would. I know Obama would.

* So does America’s post-Great Society inflation rate. I’m sure it’s merely a coincidence.

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