When Theodore Dalrymple, that great expert on culture rot, spoke at an event co-sponsored by IWF a few years ago, he was asked if the U.S. was as bad off as the United Kingdom. His answer was curious: no, he said, because the U.S. still had a sense of having a role to play in the world.

The U.S. foreign policy has been such an incoherent mess in recent years that it’s almost possible to look dispassionately upon the dismantling of American military might. Almost. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s announcement of plans to reduce the American military to pre-World War II levels is a turning point in our history that must not go without comment on Inkwell.

Hagel said he had made “tough choices,” but I doubt that the choices were, in fact, tough: they are the logical outcome of the Obama administration’s view of America’s place in the world. Max Boot gives a concise list of what Hagel is eliminating. Boot also notes that the American military is currently engaged in as many missions as ever before in the recent past.  

In a previous post, Boot dissects the thinking that underlies the Obama administration’s draconian cuts to the military:

Traditionally, military planners have operated under a worst-case scenario: i.e., what do we need to have in place to respond if nothing goes as planned? The Obama administration and Congress appear to be operating under a best-case scenario: i.e., what is the minimum force we can field on the assumption that nothing will go terribly wrong? …

[These cuts are] a responsible decline in military strength only if you assume that we will never fight another major land war, or engage in simultaneous stabilization and counterinsurgency operations. And that, in turn, is a tenable assumption only if you assume that the laws of history have been repealed and a new era is dawning in which the U.S. will be able to protect all of its vital interests through drone strikes and commando raids. We all hope that’s the case but, as the saying has it, hope isn’t a strategy. Except, it seems, in Washington defense circles today.

 Peter Wehner is also worried, noting that for President Obama the weakening of American military power is a positive thing. President Obama believes it will contribute to peace and stability:

Mr. Obama is wrong on every count. But in a sense it’s not at all surprising that the president would hold these views, given the academic and intellectual milieu he comes from. Liberals like Mr. Obama don’t view America as particularly exceptional. They think “leading from behind” is just what America ought to do and where America ought to be. Mr. Obama, then, isn’t any different than your run-of-the-mill man of the left.

What is different is that Barack Obama isn’t on the faculty of Columbia; he’s commander in chief of the United States. Which means that his misguided views are downright pernicious. And for all the damage the president is doing on the domestic side–and I would not want to underestimate it for a moment–it may be the harm he’s inflicting on America in foreign policy and national security is deeper, broader, and more durable. 

More than any president in my lifetime, Barack Obama has damaged virtually everything he’s touched. When it comes to American interests, he’s a one-man wrecking ball. 

It is true that some libertarians regard the military cuts as a step in the right direction. And we should be asking why the U.S. has not been more successful abroad lately, even before President Obama. (Maybe, in part, it’s because the world is a dangerous place?) It should also be noted that the U.S. has been more successful in Afghanistan than President Obama acknowledges.

President Obama’s transformation of the military may be difficult, if not impossible, for a future president to reverse.

We may well be on the verge of learning what it is like to live in a world dominated by powers far less benign than the United States.