Belmont Club

Waltzing Matilda

John Kennedy‘s bold assertion in his inaugural speech “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” has been replaced by another implicit message from the current administration: count on us to let you down.

It’s not just Japan that is having second thoughts about American commitments. Australia is also examining re-examining the wisdom of relying on America instead of China. John Lee at the Wall Street Journal writes:

In a matter of weeks, the Australian government will release a White Paper entitled “Australia in the Asian Century.” According to my sources, the report will look at how Australia can best exploit future economic opportunities in the region focusing on China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and India. Conspicuously absent from the primary analysis will be America.

This should raise alarm bells in Washington and the region. It signals that America’s staunchest ally in Asia may be losing faith in the revival of the U.S. economy. If so, steadfast support for the alliance will not be far behind.

It’s not that America is not wanted by its Asian allies. It is wanted more than ever before. But they’ve got to face the facts. How can you rely on a styrofoam pillar for support? Lee writes:

It’s true that the American strategic presence in Asia has never been more welcomed than it is today. America has deepened its bilateral alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines in addition to its de facto alliance with Taiwan. It maintains a close security relationship with Singapore, a long-standing partnership with Malaysia, and is reforging ties with Indonesia.

These countries offer America generous access to their bases, ports and sovereign sea-lanes, and openly support America’s military and diplomatic presence in the region. Even former adversaries in India and Vietnam are welcoming the Seventh Fleet with open arms.

The New York Times reports that Secretary Panetta is heading for Asia with the express goal of assuring America’s allies that its defense cuts don’t mean anything and that the administration’s assurances are as sound as dollar.

He will be working to dispel skepticism that the administration’s new Asia-Pacific strategy is an emperor with no clothes, and so is certain to offer rebuttals to those who say the regional “rebalancing” remains more rhetoric than reality.

At the same time, he will have to convince a specific audience — in Beijing — that relocating resources to the region after a decade of combat in the Middle East and Southwest Asia is not meant to confront China.

It’s the Obama doctrine: apologize loudly and carry a small stick.

The Republicans have taken the opportunity to remind the President that you can’t keep taking bullets out your gun and still impress the potential adversary. At some point it’s no longer bravado. You’re just out of ammunition.

The Republicans used their Saturday radio address to pressure President Obama over possible defense cuts.

Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., identifying himself as a “United States Representative and Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel,” said the defense cuts in the sequester “would essentially hollow out our armed forces,” and he blamed Obama.

“Mr. President: for you — the Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces — to sit idle and do nothing while this dark cloud hangs over our military, it is shameful, it is irresponsible, and it is wrong. It is dead wrong,” West said.

But the White House argues that it’s all Romney’s fault — or at least Paul Ryan’s. The cuts are the result of a refusal by the Grand Obstructionist Party to raise the debt ceiling. “The sequester of defense and domestic cuts kicks in early next year if the White House and Congress are unable to agree on a plan to reduce the federal debt by $1.2 trillion.” Give Obama what he wants and the military can have its budget.

Buzzfeed recently bannered a headline describing what would happen if there were debt limits. “Sequestration Would Slash Funding To Security At Embassies, Report Says.” Did you think the attacks on America’s embassies were al-Qaeda’s doing? Hell no. It’s Romney’s fault. It always is.

A Congressman calls it “blackmail”. Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes said, “he wants to use this [sequestration] to blackmail Republicans into raising taxes on the American people, he doesn’t care if it is going to cost 700,000 jobs, that is his motivation and that motivation is clear, I think, from the OMB director’s testimony.”

The problem arises from the Budget Control Act that the debt reduction super committee passed last year. The super committee’s deficit reduction plan, which Obama signed into law, put in place a trigger that will automatically make steep cuts – about $110 billion – to the Department of Defense budget come Jan. 2 if no alternative is adopted. By Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta’s own admission, these cuts – if not stopped – will cause about 1.5 million people to lose their jobs over the course of 10 years. In total, the job losses would add about one full percent to the unemployment rate.

In addition, about 200,000 of those lost jobs include active duty troops who will be forced to retire early. To put that in comparison, 200,000 is bigger than the entire Marine Corps.

Perhaps Japan and Australia are right in having doubts. But they are probably just not smart enough to see the deep game. As Jay Carney said after the attacks on American Embassies in the Middle East “we’re very proud of the president’s record on foreign policy and are happy to make the case at the appropriate time.”

Or as Rahm Emmanuel put it: “We faced a once-in-a-generation moment in American history. Fortunately for all of us, we have a once-in-a-generation president.” Amen brother. By the way, can you still say “amen”? A cynic might conclude that Panetta’s Asia trip is simply an opportunity for Obama to send out another one of his patented “boyfriend” speeches. A radio talk show host characterized President Obama’s constant pleadings with those of deadbeat suitors who promise to bring back the magic.

HE was there to lean on in times of need. Then he subtly talked smack about his competition. You don’t want THAT guy, do you? He then went quickly into, “it’s not about me, it’s about you”, filling your head with empty platitudes about how great you are and how much you’ve contributed to the relationship. And then he reasserted himself as THE boyfriend. The one who had to put up with all your crap when you were cranky, doing the heavy lifting so you didn’t have to. Then there was the misty eyed hope about our future. He lays out how he wants to get married, and can’t wait to have children, even though nothing he’s said or actually done to this point indicated this previously. And he wraps things up with the “give me another chance and everything will be different this time” spiel and the speech was over.

Yep. It’s a pretty old spiel.


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