Those who might have nodded off after the first hour of President Obama’s third State of the Union address were surely brought back to consciousness by the startling claims on foreign policy and global leadership in the last third of the speech. As did much of the speech as a whole, it had a kind of Alice in Wonderland quality to it.
“America is back,” proclaimed the President, who had just boasted of his ignominious troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq. “Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”
But wait. Wasn’t it President Obama who came into office touting a more “humble” American foreign policy, who prided himself on “leading from behind in the Middle East,” and who has been taken to the cleaners by Russian arms-control negotiators? What’s more, President Obama, who once publicly doubted America’s claims to exceptionalism, declared in his speech tonight that America “remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs—and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.”
In keeping with the surreal quality of these claims, the President also boasted that his proposed draconian cuts in U.S. military spending “ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget.” What the President’s proposal does, of course, is undermine the finest military in the world rather than maintain it.
In Obama’s worldview, rhetoric substitutes for action, words for deeds. Unfortunately, that does not apply to the world the rest of us live in.