Will US budget cuts lead to splendid isolation?

(By Deutsche Welle) With defense cuts looming in the US, Secretary of State John Kerry has warned against growing isolationist sentiment. But experts say that Washington is simply adopting a more restrained foreign policy.

US President Barack Obama published his budget on Tuesday, a week after Secretary of State Kerry had warned that cuts in military spending potentially signaled a “new isolationism” among the American public and its elected representatives.

“This not a budget we want,” Kerry told reporters last Wednesday. “It’s not a budget that does what we need. It was the best the president could get. It’s not what he wanted.”

“Look at our efforts to get the president’s military force decision on Syria backed up on (Capitol Hill),” the secretary of state said. “Look at the House of Representatives with respect to the military and the budget.”

“All of those diminish our ability to do things,” Kerry said, adding that the US was “acting like a poor nation.”

But according to Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University, accusations of “isolationism” are little more than a political tactic used to delegitimize critics.

“This is standard American politics,” Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran and former army colonel, told DW. “There seems to be a belief in Washington that if you can portray your critics as isolationists, that doing so will then strengthen one’s own claim to wisdom. The United States is not an isolationist country – quite frankly it’s never been. Certainly it’s not today.”

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US government shutdown could rattle fragile economy

(By Deutsche Welle) If the US House of Representatives fails to reach a compromise over budget cuts, the federal government will go unfunded and partially shutdown. A shutdown could shake global confidence in the fragile American economy.

Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives continued to lock horns over America’s budget deficit on Friday with a shutdown of the US government looming should the two sides prove unable to reach a compromise by midnight.

Republicans, buoyed by the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement, have called for drastic budget cuts over the next decade in order to reign in Washington’s ballooning debt. For the current fiscal year, Republicans are seeking some $40 billion (27 billion euros) in budget cuts.

Meanwhile, Democrats countered the Republican demand with $33 billion in reductions, arguing that deeper cuts could send America’s fragile economy into a tailspin just as it begins to work its way out of the worst crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

President Obama met with Republican leader John Boehner and Democratic leader Harry Reid for emergency negotiations earlier this week. Although both sides of the political aisle said progress had been made toward compromise, a solution is outstanding.

“The only question is whether politics or ideology is going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown,” Obama said in an unscheduled appearance in the White House press briefing room.

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NATO allies warn US on too much defense scrimping

(By Deutsche Welle) While the Pentagon tightens its financial belt, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has hinted at reducing American troop levels in Europe. However, Washington must reconcile a smaller force with traditional NATO obligations.

With US engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the Obama administration is promising to cut spending. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced cuts to the tune of  $78 billion (57 billion euros). And these cuts may impact what Gates has called an “excess force structure in Europe.”

Once meant to hold the Soviet Union at bay, the Atlantic alliance is redefining its mission on a continent now largely united and at peace. In the future, a smaller US military presence in Europe will focus on rapidly deploying elsewhere in the world. However, Washington must balance this smaller, more cost-effective force with its traditional security obligations as a NATO member.

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