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.”
The world’s prevailing geopolitical winds truly, now, are winds of peace, not war. (This columnist originally missed Obama’s relevance to the process, for which he duly hereby issues a correction.) Obama promised to align America with the winds of peace in ways that his rivals for office simply did not. The electorate wants peace. Obama alone caught the political wave of peace. He rode it to election … and re-election. In great measure Obama is fulfilling his commitment to peace.
As shrewdly noted by columnist Adil E. Shamoo in consortiumnews.com,
If a Republican were president — say Sen. John McCain, who lost to Obama in 2008, or Mitt Romney, who failed to unseat him in 2012 — he would have found a way to keep as many as 30,000 American combat troops in Iraq, making Iraq a violent client state rather than the distant disaster it is today. Troops would continue coming home in coffins, and Iraq would feel the wrath of continued air strikes and raids.
If Hillary Clinton had won the primary in 2008 and became president, she would have rallied to keep combat troops in Iraq, too….
If a Republican or Ms. Clinton were president, American troops would still be in Afghanistan ….
Secretary of defense Chuck Hagel’s plan declared on February 24th to reduce the military budget to the lowest level since before World War II seals Obama’s real legacy. For Hagel to have done this in a way that enjoys a broad-based, at least tacitly bipartisan, recognition — that the restructuring will not undermine American security — is an impressive achievement.
At Obama’s bidding, Hagel’s judicious slimming down, restructuring, and modernizing of America’s force structure, together with Obama’s winding down the presence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, is an impressive, historic, legacy. The emergence of peace was foreshadowed by the 2009 award to the newly fledged President Obama of the Nobel Peace Prize. He has delivered, impressively.
Obama’s successful confrontation with, and victory over, the Military-Industrial complex is striking. Peace is in the sweet spot of American, and world, priorities.
Peace, not the benighted Obamacare, is Obama’s signature initiative. Continuing to defend, and even feature, the botched Obamacare likely will cost the Democrats control of the US Senate this year.
Meanwhile, virtually unadvertised, Obama is making good on his promise of ushering in a wave, and likely an era, of peace This columnist is a Tea Party Patriot, right wing conspirator, Republican Party loyalist, and Obama opponent. It is with some trepidation, therefore, that he points out something that, if noticed by the Democrats, might be used to avert the onrushing Democratic Party rout. (The captains of the Other Team reportedly do not routinely read here — their loss — so making this observation is not a reckless act.)
Hagel’s speech cements President Obama’s legacy. Hagel:
Our force structure and modernization recommendations are rooted in three realities:
- First, after Iraq and Afghanistan, we are no longer sizing the military to conduct long and large stability operations;
- Second, we must maintain our technological edge over potential adversaries;
- Third, the military must be ready and capable to respond quickly to all contingencies and decisively defeat any opponent should deterrence fail.
Accordingly, our recommendations favor a smaller and more capable force – putting a premium on rapidly deployable, self-sustaining platforms that can defeat more technologically advanced adversaries.
The forces we prioritized can project power over great distances and carry out a variety of missions more relevant to the President’s defense strategy, such as homeland defense, strategic deterrence, building partnership capacity, and defeating asymmetric threats. …
Our recommendations seek to protect capabilities uniquely suited to the most likely missions of the future, most notably special operations forces used for counterterrorism and crisis response. Accordingly, our special operations forces will grow to 69,700 personnel from roughly 66,000 today.
Thus has the Republican Secretary Chuck Hagel cemented the Democratic President Obama’s legacy. Both thereby make a great contribution to America’s well being and, likely, to history. Guiding America home to, or at least toward, a peacetime footing — not Obamacare — is Obama’s signature achievement. It is one that deserves recognition from conservatives and libertarians as well as progressives … and from all Americans.
This article was previously published at Forbes.com.