Reading E.J. this morning – there was this slumbering sense of relief that a new President will take over from 2016. And it will very likely be someone with a different drive, a different sense of direction and purpose, and a different attitude towards involving and inspiring the public along the way.
We are about to have a major foreign policy debate in the guise of a confirmation battle over Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense and the related argument over how long American troops should stay in Afghanistan. President Obama should use this opportunity to stand up for his broader vision of how American power can be sustained and used, even if that doesn’t come naturally to a pragmatist who likes making decisions one at a time.
Underlying this clash will be another over whether the United States is in long-term decline. We are not, and the decline discussion should not scare us. We seem to have it every few decades.
(..) Obama’s harshest critics are essentially charging that he has accepted American decline. They are convinced he wants to pull back from the world and slash the Pentagon budget to make room for more domestic spending. He’s often accused of making the Western European choice: less for the military, more for the welfare state. Hagel, a critic of Pentagon bloat and of America’s engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, is seen as Obama’s nominally Republican agent in achieving this transformation.