Successful government is by its very nature a balance between opposing forces, ideas, and perceived needs. As it strives to find balance we often use the idea of a pendulum as a metaphor, but I think a child’s teeter-totter is a more accurate one. For the past twenty years or so our teeter-totter has made increasingly larger swings up and down, to the point now we are slamming into the ground on almost every issue. We seemed to have lost our ability to find balance.
|Image from Coolclips.Com|
Since September 11, 2001 the US has been at war, but it is not like the traditional wars our forces are built to wage, our Generals have trained to fight, or our politicians understand. True, we have invaded nation-states that harbored our enemies, and we have killed, captured, and retained a great number of foreign fighters, but can we say today this war has made the US and our citizens safer?
The US, under the Bush administration, overthrew two nation-states as it attempted to root out and destroy the threats from the radical Islamic terror networks. In the course of these actions we created environments were local resentment and suspicion increased the breeding grounds for support to those terror groups. What receives little notice was the support the US provided to another state as it fought its own campaign. In that case, we did not overthrow the government, we supported it.
Then we come to the US position under the Obama administration. During his election campaign, he promised to end the US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq and bring our forces home. What he found was by withdrawing forces from those areas he left the native governments weak and unready to fill the security void we left. Additionally, his administration, with Secretary Clintons help, destabilized three authoritarian governments, Syria, Egypt, and Libya paving the way for long term political unrest and in the case of Syria -- civil war. That war has created yet another front the US and its military forces must counter.
As if these problems were not sufficient, the domestic priorities of the Obama administration drove it to reduce (some would say slash), military spending. This meant that the services had to reduce manpower and make choices between sustaining its aging equipment or modernizing. Of course, everyone and their mother has an opinion on what should be done and those conflicts of opinion more often than not lead to inaction where wise decisions are cast aside.
The reduction in manpower, coupled with the Administration’s decision to further destabilize the Middle East, has had a foreseeable and dramatic effect on the soldiers, sailors, marines and airman who are now on a continuous rotation to the battlefield. Their lives are now ones of constant stress, their families are under constant pressure, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It seems these human impacts are never considered when the President and advisors choose a course of action, they may “feel their pain” but that is little more than political talk. The same as saying we know what true hunger is.
Now we come to President Trump, who will this evening issue address Congress, where he will lay out his plans to increase funding of the armed forces, law enforcement, and border security while cutting the funding from those social programs the previous administration had prioritized. I expect we will see a huge outcry from the press and the political left who will claim the administration is out to destroy the earth and end humanity. While I doubt that is really Mr. Trump’s intent everyone who has labeled him a hate monger will eagerly embrace it as their theme.
What I don’t see in this administration, and the thing that gives me the greatest concern is any attempt to return to balance. It is simply a continuation of the I’m in charge, I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone approach we have come to expect as normal for our government. How long can we continue slamming into the ground before one side falls off or the teeter-totter breaks?