Friday, May 30, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: the President Speaks and Other Stories

It was kind of a slow news week.  If it wasn't for the president's speech, I'm not sure what I'd have written about.

1.  Rebutting Critics, Obama Seeks Higher Bar for Military Action (NYT)
Af­ter more than five years in of­fice, Mr. Oba­ma has be­come in­creas­ing­ly con­vinced that while the Unit­ed States must play a vi­tal role be­yond its bor­ders, it should avoid get­ting dragged in­to the quick­sand of in­ter­na­tion­al cri­ses that have trapped some of his pre­de­ces­sors. It is time for an end to what he called ‘a long sea­son of war.’
To his crit­ics, main­ly on the right but al­so some on the left, this is a pre­scrip­tion for pas­siv­ity, an ab­ro­ga­tion of decades of bi­par­ti­san lead­er­ship on the world stage. Stung and ir­ri­tated, Mr. Oba­ma used his com­mence­ment ad­dress to West Point cadets on Wednes­day to mount a sus­tained re­but­tal and to de­fine an ap­proach to for­eign pol­i­cy that he be­lieves is suit­ed to a new era and that he hopes will out­last his pres­i­dency.”
What I heard him say is that the United States reserves the right to act unilaterally to protect its interests overseas, but that we will seek to make joint, international efforts to resolve problems that involve moral issues without touching directly on America’s interests.  This sounds like a defense of the president’s past actions, and that’s okay, but in trying to walk a confusing middle ground, I thought the speech itself came out muddled at best.  To my ears, it sounded like he wants to be perceived as tough-minded internationally, but that it’ll take a lot to actually trigger another deployment.  
Unfortunately, my personal experience with this is that the less focused your foreign policy, the more likely you are to engage in multiple deployments all over the place.  Certainly, this was what happened after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989.  Yes, the world walked away from the spectre of nuclear annihilation, but the upshot was the disruption of the global balance-of-power.  Instead of being deployed primarily in Europe and Korea as an Army of Containment, the U.S. Army became a kind of global expeditionary force, providing peacekeeping services worldwide to regions whose authoritarian regimes no longer had a raison d’etre.  And then there was Somalia, Haiti, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and things really started to get out of hand.  As I’ve written before, OPTEMPO was a thing long before the infinite wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If you ask me, those two wars were of a piece with everything else.  They merely pushed what was already an unsustainable practice well past its breaking point.  This at least forced some prioritization on the country’s foreign policy, which in turn kept us out of some other bad situations--Syria, Iran, Libya--and that’s where we are today.  The country is trying to find its way, but in the aftermath and exhaustion of bad policy, the way forward is less than clear.  However, at least one reality has been burned into the public consciousness for the time being.
There are limits.  Choices must be made.
What annoyed me, then, about the president’s speech wasn’t so much the policy itself as the way it came across.  The president was trying to act tough while at the same time “raising the bar” for military action.  It’s ultimately the same kind of “Guns and Butter” policy that has plagued America since 1989, and the world is no more stable now than it was then.  Worse, the one thing that has become clear since ‘89 is that we can’t keep spending like this forever.  
Or, to put it another way, I’d paraphrase the president’s speech like this:
“We’re going to have our cake, and we’re going to eat it, too.  Because we, as Americans, have the best cake in the entire world.”
But the problem with that is that flour prices have gone up, and half the bakery’s cooks just got laid off.  One way or another, there’s only so much cake to go around.
Pres­i­dent Oba­ma will use his ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­i­ty to cut car­bon emis­sions from the na­tion’s coal-fired pow­er plants by up to 20 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with his plans, and will force in­dus­try to pay for the pol­lu­tion it cre­ates through cap-and-trade pro­grams across the coun­try.”
That’s gonna wind up in court.
I am not fighting that today.  So, yeah, as I write this, it’s Thursday, and I’m home working on my blog.  Sure, that beats work, but it’s gonna cost me a vacation day.


Eh.  At least it's nice outside.  Maybe I'll go run later.

4.  I'm ready for some New Mutants
Don't get me wrong.  I liked X-Men: Days of Future Past quite a lot.  It was much, much better than I thought it was going to be.  But I think I've seen enough of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine for a while.  If you ask me, it's time for something a little different.  Besides which, it's not like there aren't many more, very interesting stories that they can tell in Marvel's mutant-verse.

New Mutants #39
Given my choice, I'd like to see one of the early stories, where the New Mutants faced off against the White Queen as she tried to basically steal control of the group out from under Charles Xavier.  But there are plenty of great New Mutants stories out there.  This is hardly the only one worth telling.

5.  Stray Voltage

 That's all I've got.  Have a good weekend!

No comments:

Post a Comment