America Faces a World of Trouble

 

Americans, their new president and his team, and the 115th Congress face a world that, in former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s memorable words, is “exploding all over.” New Secretary of Defense James Mattis asserted in his confirmation hearing that the world order “is under the biggest threat since WWII.” Hostilities, atrocities and weapons programs are escalating around the globe.

Syria is a cataclysm of war and despair. Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Venezuela, and Ukraine are in crisis. The Middle East is beset by terrorism and the growing influence of Russia and Iran. Iran and North Korea are ever closer to becoming serious nuclear powers. China is flexing its geopolitical muscle, expanding its military power, and aggressively building islands in the South China Sea. Russia is bullying and destabilizing Eastern and Central Europe, and pressuring the NATO alliance itself. Islamic extremism, anti-Semitism, persecution of Christians, targeting of religious minorities, and severe human rights violations are on the rise.

American foreign policy at its best emphasizes both national security and security partnerships, and human rights. But President Obama and Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry emphasized neither. They generally treated democratic allies and pro-democracy groups ungenerously, while treating adversaries and anti-democratic groups generously. The misguided hope was to create a unified, if morally mute world in which we could all, somehow, get along. Our debility and lack of compassion in turn gave hostile forces momentum, and fuel for their propaganda. As the United States weakened traditional relationships and surrendered leadership, trust in our reliability waned, while questions about our priorities grew. Often, we alienated the very moderate and peaceful countries and peoples we need on our side.

Having delayed taking responsibility, the Obama administration finally found itself in a world so dangerous that it had no choice but to respond. In the last year, the Obama foreign policy team reassessed some of its policies of retrenchment and put more energy into defensive measures, particularly in Europe. Now is the time to rise above partisan grievances and get to work on the risks we all face to our freedom and security. James Mattis’s reassurances to Asian allies and warning to North Korea regarding use of nuclear weapons, and the Trump administration’s decision, in collaboration with Congress, to increase sanctions on Iran deserve support. That support can and should be accompanied by insistence that the administration take Russian aggression seriously. Let us hope that Nikki Haley’s unambiguous critique of Russian aggression at the UN signals broad-based policies.

Iran’s unrelenting pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, sponsorship of terror and regional aggression should make containing Iran and stopping its nuclear advances an American foreign policy priority. Assad’s reign of terror, use of WMD, enactment of some the worst atrocities the world has seen — and the opportunities for “bad actors” the Syrian cataclysm provides — should make finding an end to the Assad regime an American foreign policy priority. Russia’s support of Syria and Iran, ruthless aggression in Ukraine and Syria, and expansionist designs in Eurasia and elsewhere, should make containing Russia an American foreign policy priority. North Korea’s severe, systemic human rights violations and swiftly expanding nuclear program should make speaking out for the oppressed and enhancing our defenses, including missile defenses, an American foreign policy priority.

Jihadist forces and aggressor regimes have capitalized on the vacuum created by the equivocation of the United States and the “international community,” and they will continue do so. Until we get our moral and strategic priorities right, the challenges to the United States of America and the ideas for which it stands will only increase. We should resist narrowmindedness and rise to the occasion.

Members have made 13 comments.

  1. Profile photo of Bob Thompson Member

    Yes, but the judge who placed a temporary restraining order on Trump’s national security based travel ban against seven countries who harbor terrorists did so because a few very prosperous companies headquartered in Washington state might need to employ some unexpected effort to accommodate to the sudden new requirements. Such a burden!

    • #1
    • February 6, 2017 at 2:56 pm
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  2. Profile photo of Front Seat Cat Member

    I agree on all your points. Imagine being Trump, sitting on your first day, with all the terror reports, and classified information unleashed upon your desk. The inaction – the message – that gave the green light for years to push forward – we won’t intervene. The effort at O’s final hour – too little – too late.

    It’s more than a mess – it’s war drums. I think Trump wants to be diplomatic as a first olive branch, but knows, based on the experience by the team he has assembled, that we are in for it. I think he is up to the task, but many things will be unpopular.

    I am right now listening to military maneuvers gearing up over the Gulf – there was a loud explosion at 3:30 PM that rattled my house and garage. Normally they’re at 9:30 AM. I see lights in the sky, moving slowly for hours under dark of night – all normal for this region of FL. I think of those soldiers doing their duty – going into the unknown – because of what is on the President’s desk. You are right – we need to support our new administration. There will be mistakes – but there’s no time to catch up.

    • #2
    • February 6, 2017 at 3:07 pm
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  3. Profile photo of Trinity Waters Thatcher

    Anne Pierce: Jihadist forces and aggressor regimes have capitalized on the vacuum created by the equivocation of the United States and the “international community,” and they will continue do so. Until we get our moral and strategic priorities right, the challenges to the United States of America and the ideas for which it stands will only increase. We should resist narrowmindedness and rise to the occasion

    Two questions about your fine post, Anne. We surely do have a mess on our hands.

    I get that our strategic priorities must be solid, but what are the corollary moral issues you mention? We are a Christian nation fighting the nihilists of Islam and supporting freedom; isn’t that enough? The other question is about your mention of narrow-mindedness. Of course that’s a negative trait, but where is it currently at issue in our developing policies?

    • #3
    • February 6, 2017 at 4:15 pm
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  4. Profile photo of Anne Pierce Contributor
    Anne Pierce Post author

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment): I agree with you re. the urgency of getting our house in order, our defenses up, which means somehow forming policy that’s both measured and expeditious. Mattis Asia trip/Trump team coordination with South Korea & Japan, and plans for robust missile defenses, seem a good start in dealing with now serious North Korea threat. In an article still available online, “Obama’s Reluctant, Specious Return to Deterrence” I noted that although they continued to defer to Russia in Syria, the Obama team was slowly waking up to the Russian threat in Europe…On Russia, Trump needs to stop sending enabling signals. So my hope is we can give credit where credit is due, while urging changes where they’re essential.

    • #4
    • February 6, 2017 at 4:17 pm
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  5. Profile photo of Front Seat Cat Member

    Anne Pierce (View Comment):
    Front Seat Cat (View Comment): I agree with you re. the urgency of getting our house in order, our defenses up, which means somehow forming policy that’s both measured and expeditious. Mattis Asia trip/Trump team coordination with South Korea & Japan, and plans for robust missile defenses, seem a good start in dealing with now serious North Korea threat. In an article still available online, “Obama’s Reluctant, Specious Return to Deterrence” I noted that although they continued to defer to Russia in Syria, the Obama team was slowly waking up to the Russian threat in Europe…On Russia, Trump needs to stop sending enabling signals. So my hope is we can give credit where credit is due, while urging changes where they’re essential.

    Yes and yes – especially on Russia. Keep writing about it – By the way, it’s 6:45 PM and loud military jets overhead continue – very unusual – they are usually out by sunset – there is a large ship way out in the Gulf off Panama City Beach – it’s been there for awhile – I don’t think it’s Disney Cruise Lines….. I believe there is a new mandate to our military, allies and there are no heads in sand. I think Trump has info and is acting accordingly.

    • #5
    • February 6, 2017 at 4:48 pm
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  6. Profile photo of Anne Pierce Contributor
    Anne Pierce Post author

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):

    Anne Pierce:

    Two questions about your fine post, Anne. We surely do have a mess on our hands.

    I get that our strategic priorities must be solid, but what are the corollary moral issues you mention? We are a Christian nation fighting the nihilists of Islam and supporting freedom; isn’t that enough? The other question is about your mention of narrow-mindedness. Of course that’s a negative trait, but where is it currently at issue in our developing policies?

    ————————————————————-

    Thanks. … Obama policies that abandoned our post-WW II position as leader of the free world were “narrow” in that they built upon post-Iraq War fears that active involvement in dangerous parts of the world inevitably leads to “boots on the ground.” (Post WWII learning was that war is more likely when we recline/retreat in face of escalating atrocities, weapons programs, hostilties). So I think Trump should beware narrowness of realpolitik (our best traditions consider human rights too) and of protectionism…and that his critics should avoid narrow lens that blinds them to how we got into the mess we’re in now. …. And, we should avoid narrow focus on ISIS since the hostile, terror-sponsoring aggressor regimes that Obama often enabled are an even bigger threat.

    • #6
    • February 6, 2017 at 4:54 pm
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  7. Profile photo of Percival Thatcher

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    It’s more than a mess – it’s war drums. I think Trump wants to be diplomatic as a first olive branch, but knows, based on the experience by the team he has assembled, that we are in for it. I think he is up to the task, but many things will be unpopular.

    I hope he knows that. He needs to hit the ground running, and his defenses of Putin up to this point are concerning.

    • #7
    • February 6, 2017 at 5:03 pm
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  8. Profile photo of Kay of MT Member

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Yes and yes – especially on Russia. Keep writing about it – By the way, it’s 6:45 PM and loud military jets overhead continue – very unusual – they are usually out by sunset – there is a large ship way out in the Gulf off Panama City Beach – it’s been there for awhile – I don’t think it’s Disney Cruise Lines….. I believe there is a new mandate to our military, allies and there are no heads in sand. I think Trump has info and is acting accordingly.

    “Loose Lips Sinks Ships”

    • #8
    • February 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm
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  9. Profile photo of Hypatia Member

    I’m puzzled by everyone’s cryptic references to Russia. Why, exactly is it such a threat?

    Yes, yes, I know–internally they’re still carrying on like they did under the Tsar, poisoning people and the like.

    But internationally? Are we worried about Eastern Europe, that they’ll try to move back in to the f0rmer Soviet bloc countries? Try to regain East Germany? And if that is the issue, what effect would such aggression have on the US, or is it just a principled objection to what we assume would be a repressive regime? I mean, do we have ambitions for territorial expansion in areas where we’re afraid they’ll get there first?

    In the Crimea, there was a referendum on whether the region wanted to stay with Russia. Overwhelmingly yes ( though there were accusations of vote tampering, but hey, we can hardly preach about that right now…)!

    Rusia is now a Christian nation.

    Russia is very friendly toward Israel, which now has a substantially Russophone population. (Oh, yeah, that’s ironic given that Russia is traditionally the Land of the Pogrom, but it seems once those Russian Jews were transported all animosity is forgotten.)

    I just can’t work up any angst about Trump’s relaxed attitude toward Putin the man. And remember his quick response when Putin said he’d build up their nuclear arsenal again: “So will WE!”

    ( Of course Trump was excoriated for that, but I’ve read revisionist history of the Cold War, pointing out that at least it STAYED cold; we and the USSR built up huge weapon stockpiles, but nobody got nuked.)

    No, I’m not getting it. And I am a baby boomer who grew up knowing that the Emergency Broadcast Signal heralding the arrival of a Soviet warhead would be the last sound I would ever hear…

    • #9
    • February 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm
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  10. Profile photo of PHCheese Member

    IMHO for Putin and Russia it’s all about oil and the control of it’s price. Obama inspired him with the US withdrawal from Iraq. Much of today’s angst about Russia is the Democratic Party trying to excuse their loss to Trump.

    • #10
    • February 14, 2017 at 5:29 pm
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  11. Profile photo of Chuckles Thatcher

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    Rusia is now a Christian nation.

    What??? I think our definitions of that phrase are radically different. Either that or “Rusia” wasn’t a typo and I’m not familiar with the place.

    • #11
    • February 14, 2017 at 5:31 pm
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  12. Profile photo of Front Seat Cat Member

    @hypatia, Do you know much about history? Start reading all you can.

    “Do we assume Russia would be an oppressive regime?” The areas they have already invaded in the Ukraine for example – thousands murdered, Ukrainians who still want their independence cannot find housing or work. They are not wanted in Northern Ukraine. Russia has no freedom – A Christian nation? You cannot share your faith – you risk arrest, they are hostile to religion unless state-run, hostile to gays, corrupt, and the US and Israel make them nervous. Read The Main Enemy by Milt Bearden and James Rosen.

    “They are a friend to Israel?” They want Israel’s assets – their presence in the Middle East is for assets, oil, to control, not to free the Syrians from tyranny. Learn about WWII – how it started and quickly. Why did Russia move all those warships to Middle East recently? Why did they just receive the biggest missile purchase to date if they are trying to wind down? Watch what they do, not what they say.

    • #12
    • February 15, 2017 at 7:06 am
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  13. Profile photo of captainpower Member

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    @hypatia, Do you know much about history? Start reading all you can.

    As a supplement to reading,

    1) stratfor has some good videos on geopolitics.

    e.g.

    via

    https://www.youtube.com/user/STRATFORvideo/search?query=russia

    2) The John Batchelor show podcast has interviews about it (and other stuff) all the time too.

    I like The John Bathelor Show because the host is pretty factual. He’s like a more serious version of NPR.

    https://audioboom.com/channel/johnbatchelor

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLI1Y6SG3RISMixPxBWwaug/search?query=russia

    • #13
    • February 15, 2017 at 7:33 am
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