Monday's big announcement:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The 2015 Pentagon budget will cut benefits for active-duty personnel and reduce the Army to pre-World War II levels, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.
How low is that? Well, as I wrote somewhere or other, if you'd taken a train around North America in 1938-39 and looked at the men in uniform on station platforms you'd have concluded Canada was the continent's military superpower.
I would doubt they'd get that low that fast, but, if you're a regular reader round these parts, you'll know I've been predicting this for years. In After America (a personally autographed copy of which is waiting for you at the SteynOnline bookstore, he pleads pitifully), I write:
As Britain and other great powers quickly learned, the price of Big Government at home is an ever smaller presence abroad.
Having succeeded Britain as the dominant power, in what other ways might the mighty eagle emulate the tattered old lion? First comes reorientation, and the shrinking of the horizon. After empire, Britain turned inward: Between 1951 and 1997 the proportion of government expenditure on defense fell from 24 percent to seven, while the proportion on health and welfare rose from 22 percent to 53. And that's before New Labour came along to widen the gap further.
Those British numbers are a bald statement of reality: You can have Euro-sized entitlements or a global military, but not both. What's easier to do if you're a democratic government that's made promises it can't afford — cut back on nanny-state lollipops, or shrug off thankless military commitments for which the electorate has minimal appetite?
The Obama Administration planned it this way, and they did it in the right order: First, massively expand domestic spending, inflate the deficit, blow through the debt ceiling. So now you have to cut ...something. And in a democracy food stamps and Medicare beat overseas bases and aircraft carriers.
How welcoming the Europeans et al will be to the news that the Great Satan's taking his ball and going home remains to be seen. As I've said for many years, the only reason Sweden can be Sweden and Belgium can be Belgium is because America's America. For two-thirds of a century, it has absolved Continental social democracies of the need to pay for their own defense. Now America wants to be Sweden. We'll see how that works out.
~More on the theme of After America and Chuck Hagel from Ed Driscoll.