Obama’s Neocon Moment

In his State of the Union address, President Obama emphatically declared, “Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Obama sought to put to rest the notion that he is embracing American decline, as GOP candidates Romney, Gingrich and Santorum have accused him of doing. He likewise affirmed his belief in the country’s exceptional place in history.

In particular, this president believes, as his predecessor did, in the necessity of the U.S. military to act beyond its constitutionally mandated function, put out any fires that flare across the globe, and underwrite world security. I examine this in an op-ed published today on CNN.com:

The president sounded like a neoconservative when he declared during his recent State of the Union address that the United States was, and would remain, the world’s “indispensable nation.” Obama’s proposed Pentagon budget, released last week, affirmed his intention to retain most of the U.S. military’s current missions, even when they aren’t needed to safeguard the United States’ vital security interests.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s latest strategy document was carefully designed to convince allies and adversaries alike that the United States can continue to prosecute multiple armed conflicts in far-flung corners of the globe. Taken together, Obama’s strategy document, budget and State of the Union remarks articulate a coherent philosophy on military spending and global engagement that ought to hold a lot of appeal for the neoconservatives in the GOP.

But … our foreign policy leaders have consistently ignored … an argument that should have strong sway at a time of economic uncertainty: this country’s tax dollars can be better spent than on defending wealthy allies who are more than capable of protecting themselves.

This talk of the United States as the “indispensable nation” is straight out of the neoconservative playbook. They should have no quarrel with President Obama’s policies. And it is interesting that while Mitt Romney criticizes the president in this arena, Romney foreign-policy advisor, neoconservative stalwart Robert Kagan, has gotten the president’s attention.

Like Kagan and Romney, President Obama believes the world is better off with the United States doing for wealthy allies what they should be doing for themselves: securing their interests. President Obama talked of “fairness” in his State of the Union and a “shared sacrifice” among citizens in these trying economic times. But this sacrifice apparently does not extend beyond the borders of the United States. Under President Obama, as under a Romney presidency, the American taxpayer will continue to pay for the security of Europe and East Asia, and our troops will be saddled with a nearly endless list of missions. That isn’t fair, nor is it wise.