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Tuesday, December 28, 2004
  VDH's Private Papers::Our Challenges in the Year Ahead
VDH's Private Papers::Our Challenges in the Year Ahead
Nor will the Bush administration cease its reexamination of its superpower responsibilities. The American people believes that there is no longer any strategic or political logic in stationing thousands of soldiers in Europe, but plenty of reasons—economic, political, and psychological—to remove the vast majority of them at a time of troops shortages closer to the front. NATO has become as impotent as it is widely praised, especially when it fails to honor commitments in Afghanistan and abhors involvement with Iraq. This obstructionism is in sharp contrast to the prior European desire of American-led military intervention—without UN or Congressional sanction—to remove Slobodan Milosevic. Having learned belatedly the wisdom of talking more quietly while carrying an even bigger stick, America may continue to offer praise for the status quo trans-Atlantic relationship, while unobtrusively promoting wider bilateral relationships—like those with Australia—based on shared commitments to freedom and the need for collective security against statism and totalitarianism in all its many guises.

The United States might be able to fight an expensive war abroad and enact massive tax cuts, but not simultaneously increase federal spending, with new mandates and entitlements. Spiraling trade deficits, a weak dollar, mounting national debt, and enormous annual budget shortfalls are creating a perfect storm of sorts. If these crises don't quite yet destroy the confidence of allies abroad and embolden opportunistic rivals like a cash-flush China, the news increasingly depresses Americans—without whose confidence the war abroad can not be carried out in full to its final success.

Supply-siders and economic libertarians may or may not be correct that the public's worry over a sinking dollar and mounting debts is the superstition of the unsophisticated. But mastery of econometrics and world finance is not the same as warcraft, in which the spiritual is every bit as important as the material. The United States may well have the money to defeat the terrorists and change the Middle East, but if its people think otherwise, we may still falter in this war even when victory is on the horizon. Unless things change quickly, what George Bush wants to do these next four years increasingly will hinge on what his people think he can afford to do.
 
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