Skip to content

Obama’s “MEOW.”

Here’s Jonah Goldberg from his Goldberg file.

Obama has spent much of his presidency trying to gin up a moral-equivalent-of-war (MEOW) atmosphere in America. Personally, I find most of it pathetic and disgusting, as when he said in a State of the Union Address that America needed to become more like the military: “At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach.” Later he went on to say we should follow the example of SEAL Team Six. They “only succeeded . . . because every single member of that unit did their job. . . . More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other — because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back. So it is with America. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.”

Among the myriad problems with this sort of thinking is that it confuses the fundamental reason we have a military in the first place. We have a military so Americans don’t have to live militaristically — i.e., take orders, march in step, etc. We rely on the collective endeavor known as the military so that the rest of us can enjoy our individual endeavors. That is what the pursuit of happiness is about. We do not have a military so it can provide a good example of how we can more productively abandon our freedoms.

(In a related peeve, I absolutely hate it when civilians refer to Obama, or any president, as “our” commander-in-chief. No, he’s the commander-in-chief of the military, but he’s our president. The commander-in-chief gets to command the military; he doesn’t get to command the rest of us, because we are neither his soldiers nor his subjects. It’s a huge category error.)

Anyway, the interesting thing about the sequester is how it exposes the shallowness of his moral-equivalent-of-war rhetoric (or, if you prefer, his equally ridiculous elision of “community” or “family” with “government”). When military units have a hardship, they make do. When communities come up short of money, everyone pitches in. When families fall on bad times, they make sacrifices. But what none of them do is make things as bad as possible just to prove a point. A commanding officer facing the equivalent of a 2 percent — or 20 percent — budget cut doesn’t go straight to confiscating everyone’s rifles right before a battle. A real community doesn’t close the fire department first. If [Rich] Lowry finally had his way and cut my pay in half, my first response wouldn’t be to stop buying food for my kid, medicine for my dog, or brown liquor for me.

Obama’s approach to the sequester is the exact opposite of a real moral equivalent of war, where everybody makes necessary sacrifices for the greater good. Obama wants unnecessary sacrifices in order to punish his political enemies, and, in the process, demonize them.