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Here’s the ad for this moment in Washington (as I imagine it): Militarized superpower adrift and anxious in alien world. Needs advice. Will pay. Pls respond qkly. PO Box 1776-2012, Washington, DC.
Here’s the way it actually went down in Washington last week: a triumphant performance by a commander-in-chief who wants you to know that he’s at the top of his game.
When it came to rolling out a new ten-year plan for the future of the US military, the leaks to the media began early and the message was clear. One man is in charge of your future safety and security. His name is Barack Obama. And—not to worry—he has things in hand.
Unlike the typical president, so the reports went, he held six (count ’em: six!) meetings with top Pentagon officials, the Joint Chiefs, the service heads and his military commanders to plan out the next decade of American war-making. And he was no civilian bystander at those meetings either. On a planet where no other power has more than two aircraft carriers in service, he personally nixed a Pentagon suggestion that the country’s aircraft carrier battle groups be reduced from eleven to ten, lest China think our power-projection capabilities were weakening in Asia.
His secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, spared no words when it came to the president’s role, praising his “vision and guidance and leadership” (as would Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin E. Dempsey). Panetta described Obama’s involvement thusly: “This has been an unprecedented process, to have the president of the United States participate in discussions involving the development of a defense strategy, and to spend time with our service chiefs and spend time with our combatant commanders to get their views.”
In other words, Obama taking ownership of the rollout of “Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” a sixteen-page document summarizing a review of America’s strategic interests, defense priorities, and military spending. Its public unveiling was to reflect the steady hand of a commander-in-chief destined to be in charge of American security for years to come.
The president even made a “rare visit” to the Pentagon. There, he was hailed as the first occupant of the Oval Office ever to make comments, no less present a new “more realistic” strategic guidance document, from its press office. All of this, in turn, was billed as introducing “major change” into the country’s military stance, leading to (shades of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) a “leaner, meaner” force, slimmed down and recalibrated for economic tough times and a global “moment of transition.”