Mark Steyn’s 2011 book After America, which famously featured a deceased Uncle Sam wearing a toe tag on its cover, was the sequel to his 2008 book America Alone. That book expanded upon his magnum opus January 1st, 2006 essay, which appeared in the New Criterion and the Wall Street Journal, and began thusly:
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.
But I bet Chuck Hagel would — even after Kathleen Sebelius has made such a hash of the department. Because from their boss’s perspective, socializing medicine is where the action is these days. As William A. Jacobson writes at his Legal Insurrection blog, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska was nominated to marginally placate Republicans once Mr. Obama’s prized defense department cuts occur.
And here we go:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel plans to shrink the United States Army to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets in a new spending proposal that officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.
The proposal, released on Monday, takes into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly and exhausting land wars. A result, the officials argue, will be a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations.
Officials who saw an early draft of the announcement acknowledge that budget cuts will impose greater risk on the armed forces if they are again ordered to carry out two large-scale military actions at the same time: Success would take longer, they say, and there would be a larger number of casualties. Officials also say that a smaller military could invite adventurism by adversaries.
As Jacobson writes, “I’m convinced more than ever that none of our declines is a coincidence.”
No, they’re yet another example of promises made, promises kept for the president. It’s unfortunate though that as much that Mr. Obama advanced on the campaign trail in 2007 and 2008 they weren’t exactly congenial promises, but America can’t say it wasn’t warned.
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“Needless to say, this is the tip of the iceberg in decades to come as entitlements cannibalize more of America’s discretionary spending,” Allahpundit adds.
Since our defense spending allowed Europe to virtually eliminate any serious armies in favor of its welfare state, I wonder how this move will play overseas? Or as Allah warns, “For the United States, the age of occupation is over. Whether that means an age of occupation is beginning for someone else, stay tuned.”
Update: “The Horizons Shrink:” Much more from Steyn himself today.