WASHINGTON: You never know til they deliver the speech, but all the indications are that President Obama is not going to discuss much of interest tonight about the Defense Department or the Pentagon budget and will mostly talk to Congress and to us about America’s future and how much better it could be.
What does that say about his administration’s last year and its focus on the military? Not much. Most presidents have said very little about the US military and its spending or strategies in their State of the Union addresses. President Eisenhower famously spoke of the military industrial complex, but that wasn’t in a SOTU. He delivered that and other cautionary words in his “farewell speech” days before handing the White House to that young whippersnapper John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
The one national security issue — besides the usual mentions of how fabulous US soldiers are and how brave — Obama is certain to raise is the continuing and increasingly global threats posed to Americans and its allies by Daesh (you can call it ISIL.) He’s likely to mention the retaking of Ramadi, though he isn’t likely to talk much about the fact that Daesh, Iraq and the coalition destroyed much of the city.
And he’ll reassure Americans that we’re pretty safe and shouldn’t get too worked up about the idea of our next door neighbors deciding they need to kill us because they think a bunch of rapists, mass murderers, thieves, cultural vandals and hypocrites want them to.
I’m betting he may mention the most recent two-year budget deal as a sign that Congress can behave rationally and should continue to do so. We may hear about the Iran nuclear deal, though he’d probably be smart to leave it out. The most intriguing issues he could raise are China’s conduct in the South China Sea and its handling of North Korea after the latest nuclear test.
And we may get a restatement of his intent to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
If President Obama actually makes news about the Defense Department tonight we’ll write about it, but presidents usually discuss broad national security issues, not the future of the Defense Department.