Another Perspective

Recognizing Red Lines at Home

Once again our leaders are ignoring the homefront.

By 9.6.13

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Recently, we’ve been hearing a lot about “red lines.” This isn’t the stuff of internal combustion stroke. The president, Congress, and the Beltway commentariat are debating certain norms, standards, and laws that govern how countries treat their people, America’s assurance of international order, and our national credibility.

Perhaps this prompts the question: while our attention is focused abroad, what sort of conversation might we be having if we discussed “red-lines” at home?

At the moment, we’re squarely fixated on a certain state in Southwestern Asia, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a country comprised of Kurds, Turks, Christians, Druze, Alawites, Arab Shia and Sunnis, Armenians, and Assyrians. Hardly an American to be found.

I’ll let the dusty congregation of foreign policy “experts” gauge the essential realities of our modern world. America exists on the frontlines of an increasingly interconnected global order, defined by the free flow of information, people, goods, and services. This assures new opportunities for cooperation, and new threats that transcend traditional borders. The president’s last National Security Strategy, published in 2010, documents the dangers of international terror, transnational criminal syndicates, threats in both outer-space and cyber-space, challenges associated with climate change, and technological advancements that wield new and awesome powers. Financial crisis, narco-terror, and deteriorating state solvency imperil lives around the world.

One presumes additional (and arbitrary) red-lines would only complicate this dizzying array of phantasmal adversaries, rivals, and threats. But I digress…

As it relates to the president’s official “National Security Strategy,” the strength of our country still depends upon the economic institutions that are the “crucial components of our national capacity and our economic instruments [that form] the bedrock of sustainable national growth, prosperity and influence.”

Regardless of your foreign policy priorities, Americans can agree that nations capable of summoning “superpowers” shouldn’t bankrupt themselves at home. Cut noses, spite faces, and all that good stuff.

Small wonder, then, if you’re perplexed by a president who routinely ignores or rebuffs our unsustainable national debt — not to mention the fact that we spend defense dollars at a rate comparable to, or exceeding, World War II. And that’s before we’ve even started the next bombing campaign!

Returning to recent events, let’s imagine that the preservation of American security and hegemony hinges on our ability to rebuild economic stability by establishing some “red-lines” on the home-front.

Consider the facts: a $17 trillion dollar federal debt approaches the size of the entire economy, without accounting for hundreds of trillions in unfunded liabilities strung to Social Security, Medicare, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The United States has never been so vulnerable to an international run on the dollar that could begin overseas. Perhaps more alarmingly, foreign governments can absolutely use their Treasury holdings to coerce American decision making.

At the risk of appearing contrarian, I’d argue that America’s international credit is more important than our rhetorical “credibility.” Now, allow me to reword some recent statements made about horrors abroad, and refine them to reflect realities at home.

Imagine if Rep. Peter King was otherwise alarmed about our national debt—it’s doubled in less than a decade, and will triple over the next ten years. No wonder. Washington borrows 40 cents on every dollar it spends.

To rephrase King’s criticism of Obama for waiting for a congressional resolution, he’d actually be correct that the president is “abdicating his responsibility” and “undermining the authority of future presidents” by ignoring this glaring issue.

Regarding “red-lines” and mixed signals, imagine if the same Representative from New York’s 2nd District remarked about the delay of Obamacare’s employer mandate, “If (Obama) says this is as is important as it is and sending so many mixed signals over, really, the last year […] this is a clear failure of leadership.” Voila! King’s got it right again.

In the right context — perhaps the president’s illegal evasion of the most unpopular elements of his signature healthcare law — I’d be cheering on Sen. Inhofe who recently scolded Obama for chronic equivocation. Said the Senator from Oklahoma “If you’re going to say something, you’ve got to back it up, and this president clearly has retreated from the position that he took, not just in the last couple of days, but about a week ago when he talked about a red line." Now apply that logic where it—right here at home where a 2,801 page, multi-trillion-dollar takeover of health care is proving a “train wreck.”

Had he been talking about the hundreds of executive orders issued by the president to circumvent Congress, Sen. Tim Kaine couldn’t have been more correct than when he stated:

Presidents often over-reach, and Congress often wants to evade responsibility, evade votes, rather than accept the consequences. I think this could be a very historic and important debate, and, again, if we can reach a consensus, we will be much stronger as a nation. 

And while I’ll be accused of alarmism, I’d have echoed Rep. Mike Rogers had he been talking about this government’s sweeping assaults on our civil liberties when he recently remarked “This is not a reality TV show. At the end of the day, something will actually happen. People will lose their lives.”

Of course that’s just me. At present, I’m focused on America’s best interest. That said, I think it’s high time we recognize some glaring “red-lines” at home, and reorganize our priorities accordingly.

Photo: UPI

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About the Author

Reid Smith writes from Washington. Follow him on Twitter @reidtsmith