Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Losing the Peace

 

Last week, a colleague and I were having a broad-ranging conversation over lunch, highlighted by some armchair analysis of the recent Russian aggression and subterfuge in the Ukraine sprinkled with our shared concern over the trade-off between entitlement and defense spending, particularly over the next decade. A key issue raised in that discussion was trying to assess the point where perception becomes reality with regard to the diminishing influence the Unites States has on world affairs. At that point, my friend said flatly, “we are losing the peace.”

I had to stop and think a moment, because my first reaction was that he was overstating the case. The United States is still a force to be reckoned with in world affairs economically and militarily. And yet, as the week wore on, I began thinking about the “signals” that have sent to our allies, the public announcements of dates-of-withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, our “leading from behind” resulting in failed states across North Africa (Libya, primarily), our canceling of missile defense deals in Europe, and our dithering in the face of Chinese and Russian adventurism. And now the Chinese and Russians are upping their game in Latin America? Haven’t we been here before? Suddenly, I find myself quite open to the idea that we are at risk of losing the peace.

But then, that presupposes there is/was a peace to lose. Since the so-called end of the Cold War, there is plenty of evidence that peace is but a mirage. From the 1991 Gulf War, to Somalia, Yugoslavia, the USS Cole, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and more, this has been a tumultuous period in its own right. What peace is there to lose when there has been no peace, per se?

I think it is more likely that this sense of “losing the peace” has more to do with the perception that American hegemony is in decline. Maybe it is inevitable, as the cost of maintaining our role as the world’s preeminent superpower is astronomical, made worse by the mountain of debt and domestic entitlement and regulation the progressives are heaping on our shoulders. If American hegemony is indeed in decline, others will fill the gap, and that certainly appears to be happening.

So, are we “losing the peace”? Or is that formulation jumping the shark? 

There are 17 comments.

  1. Cornelius Julius Sebastian Inactive

    We are definitely losing credible influence in geo-political affairs, and the reasons are a combination of blinkered foreign policy and the aforementioned domestic agenda leading us to bankruptcy. I dissent from the notion there is or was a peace really. I think Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilizations thesis holds the most exanatory power. Conflict is constant along civ fault lines. All that one can hope for is to engage it intelligently. We have not since 2008.

    • #1
    • March 23, 2014, at 7:41 AM PST
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  2. Cornelius Julius Sebastian Inactive

    *explanatory… Is anyone else having difficulty editing in 2.0? I repeatedly get a “dead” keyboard and can’t correct text. Very frustrating.

    • #2
    • March 23, 2014, at 7:48 AM PST
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  3. Bob Thompson Member

    Caught the first segment of ‘Meet the Press’ this morning and heard Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter complain that people in need are not getting enough help from Washington due to too much attention to the likes of Ukraine

    • #3
    • March 23, 2014, at 8:36 AM PST
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  4. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase Post author

    Cornelius Julius Sebastian:
    We are definitely losing credible influence in geo-political affairs, and the reasons are a combination of blinkered foreign policy and the aforementioned domestic agenda leading us to bankruptcy. I dissent from the notion there is or was a peace really. I think Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilizations thesis holds the most exanatory power. Conflict is constant along civ fault lines. All that one can hope for is to engage it intelligently. We have not since 2008.

    I tend to agree, except that I would clarify that if 2008 is the line of demarcation, it would have to be early 2008, when it became clear that 1) Bush would do nothing to slow down Iran’s nuclear program, and 2), we did nothing of substance in the face of Russia’s aggression in Georgia. Clearly, it has been amateur hour since then – or “smart diplomacy” as the current administration likes to call it. You’d think after 5 years, they’d at least show evidence of learning on the job, but that may be too much to expect from a foreign policy based less on reality than on leftist fantasy and/or personality.

    • #4
    • March 23, 2014, at 10:04 AM PST
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  5. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase Post author

    Bob Thompson:
    Caught the first segment of ‘Meet the Press’ this morning and heard Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter complain that people in need are not getting enough help from Washington due to too much attention to the likes of Ukraine

    Oh geez, where to begin …

    • #5
    • March 23, 2014, at 10:09 AM PST
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  6. Manfred Arcane Inactive

    Isn’t the problem that we have been highly stupid in how we have applied our power? For instance, the outcome of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are in the balance right now, but even if things turn out as well as we could expect them to, they will probably fall short of the kind of return we should look for from the resources we committed. This is what really burns Republicans about G.W.Bush – as much as we esteem him generally – in that his administration just didn’t know what it was doing after it’s initial actions in these two countries. This is even more true of BO’s administration. Churchill’s dictum seems fully in force these days: “The Americans always do the right thing, only after they have tried everything else.”

    • #6
    • March 23, 2014, at 11:18 AM PST
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  7. Z in MT Inactive

    We can easily afford a military the keeps us the sole remaining superpower, what we can’t afford is a defense establishment (this includes uniformed and civilian personnel in the DoD and defense contractors) that is poorly designed to be the sole remaining superpower. For all the talk about the military being over invested in unneeded weapons and equipment programs, the real truth is that the military is way over invested in human capital. There are way too many “middle management” types in the defense establishment. One of the reason’s why defense weapons programs are always way over budget is that there are too many people in the Pentagon assigned to oversee that they don’t go over budget.

    • #7
    • March 23, 2014, at 12:09 PM PST
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  8. Nick Stuart Inactive

    Bob Thompson:
    …Mayor Nutter …

     
    Can’t make this stuff up.

    • #8
    • March 23, 2014, at 12:20 PM PST
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  9. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    The cost in dollars and human lives of winning the peace is nothing in comparison with the cost in those two commodities of losing the peace.

    An increase in entitlements spending has only one effect — to whet the appetite for more entitlements spending.

    • #9
    • March 23, 2014, at 1:58 PM PST
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  10. Saxonburg Member

    My beautiful and intelligent wife made an excellent point. While the Bush administration’s reaction to the 2008 Georgia conflict may not have been very aggressive (the usual harsh statements, providing humanitarian relief via the Naval fleet, and flying Georgian troops back to Georgia from Iraq), the Obama administration’s reaction to that conflict was the “Reset” button (aka the Overload button).

    • #10
    • March 23, 2014, at 3:39 PM PST
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  11. James Of England Moderator

    Paul A. Rahe:
    The cost in dollars and human lives of winning the peace is nothing in comparison with the cost in those two commodities of losing the peace.
    An increase in entitlements spending has only one effect — to whet the appetite for more entitlements spending.

     This analysis depends partly on there being a peace to lose, though. Jim and CJS are saying there isn’t.

    My understanding is that we live in a uniquely peaceful era, unprecedented in history, and that this has been maintained through an incredibly mild form of the Savage Wars of Peace. I hold the military education of our warrior scholars in a very high regard, though, and am eager to hear more about the lack of peace since the Cold War.

    • #11
    • March 23, 2014, at 4:05 PM PST
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  12. Bob Thompson Member

    ‘Caught the first segment of ‘Meet the Press’ this morning and heard Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter complain that people in need are not getting enough help from Washington due to too much attention to the likes of Ukraine’

    I rolled my eyes at the irony of the lack of knowledge by a big urban city mayor of the first and foremost role Washington should play in our Federal system. A major reason our Congress people vote for bills they have not read and have no clue of the provisions in the content (most of which they will delegate any specifics to the civil service bureaucrats anyway) is because they engage in far too many domestic matters to the detriment of needed attention to national defense and border control. For example, Washington wants to control literacy through common core rules for public education while unknown numbers of illegals of unknown literacy cross our borders at will. 

    • #12
    • March 23, 2014, at 5:58 PM PST
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  13. Carey J. Inactive

    The Byzantine Empire lasted over 1100 years by following a few basic principles:

    1. Avoid war whenever possible. Tribute is cheaper than war, and the tribute gold often ends up back in your merchant’s pockets, where it can be taxed, thus completing the cycle. 
    2. Be well-prepared militarily for any wars that can’t be avoided.
    3. Annihilating one enemy only creates an opening for another. There is no permanent security.
    4. Avoid huge set piece battles. Better to shadow the enemy army, hit it’s foraging parties, ambush the enemy. Try to hit the enemy when he’s on his way home. 
    5. Cultivate allies among the surrounding peoples. This year’s enemy may be tomorrow’s ally. 
    6. Encourage (bribe) enemies to attack each other instead of you
    • #13
    • March 23, 2014, at 11:26 PM PST
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  14. Steve MacDonald Inactive

    At the point where it became evident that the USA could no longer subsidise the developed world’s defence (pick a date between 1992 and 2007/8), the logical action would have been to engage in serious discussions with our allies re. world security going forward. Instead we have engaged in small actions, bigger actions, wars that created enmity (Balkans), wars & nation building that did not work, spent Trillions we did not have – but felt justified mortgaging our children’s future for the noble principle of strong defence. 

    Currently we have acted to infuriate, alienate or humiliate most allies, while projecting radical weakness with those that wish us ill across the globe. We are at the point where we encourage gratuitous ridicule in our missteps – like Ukraine.

    I remain unconvinced whether we are losing the peace or whether we are successfully implementing a diabolical plan of intentional failure (execution to perfect to be planned but to exact to be unintentional). In any case, we are indeed losing.

    • #14
    • March 24, 2014, at 4:59 AM PST
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  15. SkipSul Moderator

    I agree with James of England here – we’ve been in a remarkably peaceful era with no large scale hot wars, and just the usual civil wars and skirmishes on the fringes of civilization. Where my criticism comes in, and CareyJ has alluded to this via Byzantium, is that Obama has no clue how our power has worked, or what to do with it. He has no guiding principles, no goals, no strategy, and may well get us into a hot war before this is over.

    Strong leaders do not get nations involved in wars unless absolutely necessary. They play the power games to keep the peace. Weak leaders get dragged into avoidable wars.

    • #15
    • March 24, 2014, at 6:55 AM PST
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  16. James Of England Moderator

    Carey J.:
    The Byzantine Empire lasted over 1100 years by following a few basic principles:

    1. Avoid war whenever possible. Tribute is cheaper than war, and the tribute gold often ends up back in your merchant’s pockets, where it can be taxed, thus completing the cycle.

    Byzantium was often keen to avoid war, but it fought aggressive wars of choice on a regular basis, and would not have survived for nearly as long as it did without doing so. Byzantium’s borders were in constant flux. Efforts to mitigate the speed with which they were retracted were vital, but would have been exceedingly temporary if they had not been combined with periods of expansion. Indeed, when Byzantium lost most of its capacity for aggressive war, it retained its ability to slow its collapse through diplomacy, but even under brilliant emperors (Manuel II, for instance), the best that could be hoped for was a delay to the end (or possibly an intervening end of the world).

    • #16
    • March 24, 2014, at 7:29 AM PST
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  17. James Of England Moderator

    Steve MacDonald:…..
    I remain unconvinced whether we are losing the peace or whether we are successfully implementing a diabolical plan of intentional failure (execution to perfect to be planned but to exact to be unintentional). In any case, we are indeed losing.

     
    By what metrics are we losing?

    Steve MacDonald:
    At the point where it became evident that the USA could no longer subsidise the developed world’s defence (pick a date between 1992 and 2007/8),

     It’s still not clear that we cannot vote for something like the Ryan plan and maintain peace and prosperity. It seems unlikely that at any point between 1992 and 2008 we might have been able to say for certainty that entitlement reform would not be passed by, say, 2020, and the US would be unable to devote 4% of its GDP to continued peace and prosperity.

    • #17
    • March 24, 2014, at 7:32 AM PST
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