By Michael Auslin
March 28, 2014 5:56 PM
The Spartans needed only 300 men to hold off tens of thousands of Persians and their allies at Thermopylae. To chitchat with his fellow democratic leaders of the G-7 this week in Europe, Barack Obama required 900, including a small air force and private army. Given how very little is accomplished at any of these diplomatic gatherings (and in particular this one, which came up with a most mealy-mouthed denunciation of Russia’s invasion of Crimea), the fact that our still-global celebrity president feels the need for an entourage befitting an Ottoman Sultan is a perfect example of government decadence in post-modern, post-republican America.
It is hard to imagine a presidency with so little to its credit after five years of frenetic activity. Disastrous decisions of the Bush presidency set the stage, but are no excuse for today’s failures. Three years after we were assured the recession was over, underemployment stands at 13 percent, 7 million Americans have dropped out of the labor force, our debt has topped a fantastical $17 trillion, and GDP growth barely touches 2 percent. Great Britain now has a higher labor-force participation rate than the United States. The nation’s health-care system is in increasing disarray thanks to an imprudent, utopian plan that has solved few of the problems it set out to reduce while introducing heartless uncertainty for millions of others. Meanwhile, this president, far more than his predecessors, acts in capricious and lawless ways, deciding by personal whim which elements of law he will ignore. In response, the so-called media eagerly follow his college-basketball picks and record his personal shopping sprees.
At the same time, while doing nothing to reduce the country’s massive debt, the president’s cuts (with eager congressional support) to our over-taxed and exhausted military have resulted in just a few years in U.S. Marines unable to conduct amphibious operations in the Pacific, an Air Force that has shed hundreds of airplanes, an army whose front-line units only are combat ready, and a Navy about to give up its most useful weapons. The result of this American trust in the better angels of foreign leaders is a Crimea under Russian control, the steady march towards an Iranian nuclear weapon, China’s increasing coercion in Asian seas, and North Korean ballistic-missile launches.
Yet in terms of pomp and circumstance, Barack Obama bestrides the globe like an Eastern potentate. The president himself vacations on the taxpayers’ millions in luxury once reserved for kings (or at least for those who made their own fortune), while his every move inside and outside these shores bespeaks a majesty that would have horrified the Founding Fathers. Such are the signs of rot and decline among our decadent elites: flamboyance at the edges, while the strength of the country that supports them is hollowed out.