Going into the election year of 2012, major polls (see here and here) highlight two issues as most important to voters. One is the economy (which includes unemployment/jobs) and the other is the budget deficit. The wave of Republicans who came into Congress in 2010 attempted to address these issues by insisting on spending cuts to reduce the deficit, resisting tax increases for fear of further damaging the economy. A number of bitter deadlocks ensued as President Obama insisted on tax increases and repeatedly balked at cutting spending.
Now, Obama has finally come up with $500 billion in spending cuts--but rather than celebrate, the editors of conservative magazine National Review attack him viciously. The reason? Obama wants to cut the Pentagon budget. In attacking the cuts, National Review calls Obama's plan a "retreat" and pulls out all the usual neocon arguments. They scold Obama for trying to return troop levels to where they were at the end of the Clinton administration--which was not coincidentally the last time we had a balanced budget.
Here is one quote: "At its Cold War peak, U.S. military strategy called for the peacetime ability to simultaneously fight and win two major theater wars and a “brushfire” conflict. The years after the Soviet collapse saw that capability pared down in the name of the “peace dividend,” just in time for the 9/11 decade to deliver . . . two major theater wars and a series of “brushfire” conflicts... But the president draws precisely the wrong conclusion from the challenges of those conflicts. Faced with our struggle to fight up to our own standards, he has elected to lower the bar."
Well, if "lowering the bar" means that less Americans die fighting for dubious causes in wars like Vietnam or Iraq, and our deficit is reduced as well, then I'm all for it. It seems to me that Obama drew exactly the right conclusion: don't start a war without an imminent threat to America and don't engage in prolonged nation-building.
Conservatives really need to realize that we can't do it all. We can't balance the budget, keep taxes low, maintain our infrastructure, keep an acceptable safety net, and continue even a stabilized version of Social Security and Medicare while continuing to act as the world's lone policeman. Not only that, but unless Republicans are willing to cut their favored programs, it would be disingenuous to ask Democrats to do the same.