Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Credit to Obama Where It Is Due

I had a fairly introspective Memorial Day.

It was a quiet morning at a local cemetery followed by an afternoon with the family and some reading.

I've been thinking a lot about the military, imperialism, and the concept of building an empire. You might remember, I mentioned a couple posts back the "New Empire of Debt" book that I'm reading. It has led to a lot of reflection on the past couple decades as well as decisions made in my personal life about finances, investments, and the future.

The End of American Imperialism

Then, it kind of hit me as I was watching some coverage of President Obama visiting troops in Afghanistan.
President Obama in Afghanistan. Credit: NYTimes.com
During the "W" era and Bush presidency we did a lot of things as a nation that weren't exactly fiscally responsible. We started a war on a unknown enemy that can't be quantitatively described or defined: terrorism.

Our country spent billions to send troops to police the world. And by "spent", I of course mean "borrowed".

Actually, the cost of Iraq and Afghan operations cumulatively is about $1.5 trillion.

But you knew all this.

Here's what kind of struck me the more I thought about the issues involved: So far, Barack Obama hasn't given into the temptress that is imperialism.

Source: Associated Press
Despite political pressure, we really didn't do much in Syria --- at least not to our previously set standards. We didn't put our men and women's lives on the line there and we didn't sacrifice nearly as much treasure.

Ukrainian troops in an airborne combat vehicle. Source: RT.com
Russia/Ukraine is a similar situation. You had political pressure from all over telling the President it was time to jump in, take more authoritative action and ramp up the military presence in the Ukraine.

He didn't.

Now, Putin has backed off with the Russian military backpeddling toward the motherland.

There is now new Ukrainian president.

While things aren't back to "normal", there is certainly a good chance at sustainable peace.

I'm not saying that President Obama hasn't spent the money other places. Health-care, unemployment benefits, etc. are bills that we're going to be saddled with as entitlements mount. I'm not attempting to paint Obama as the great "budget-balancer".

4 More Years of George W. Bush?

But while I rip Obama for the economy and other doomed policies, on the foreign policy front he has been able to resist the temptation that most of his predecessors as POTUS were not.

In fact, it seems a vote for McCain back in 2008 would have led to a little different result. Unless the Arizona Senator is just playing a role and party-puppet in his questioning a president of the other party.

Courtesy: CBS News
McCain says we should have gotten involved in Syria.

McCain says we should be more involved in Russia.

It seems in some ways, the election of John McCain absolutely would have been like another 4-years of George W. Bush --- at least on the foreign policy side.

That's not to say Russia isn't still a threat and that military action may at some point be unavoidable but as of today, it sure doesn't seem that escalation is in the cards for that part of the world.

So, credit to Obama for resisting the urge to grow the empire, spend the money, and drop the bombs at a time when we really don't need the casualties, bill, or distractions.

That's worth something, right?
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