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We now have on our hands Barack Obama’s War, for our latest Middle Eastern war belongs entirely to him. And someone — let it be me! — should alert Sen. Rand Paul to this teachable moment, for Obama’s War (which Rand Paul supports) was brought on by the very policy of non-intervention that he, his father, and the Cato Institute all championed. As Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has testified in word and deed, there is essentially no difference on foreign affairs between left-wing Democratics and arch-libertarians who sometimes vote Republican.
This war might have been avoided. Had Obama taken the trouble to arrange for a few thousand American soldiers to remain in Iraq — as he easily could have — the Iraqi’s coalition government between Shia, Sunni, and Kurd would have held, despite Maliki’s perfidy. That, in turn, would have prevented al-Qaeda’s reemergence in the Sunni-dominated provinces of Iraq. Moreover, ISIS would not be in control of great swathes of Syria had the president followed the advice of his advisors and allies and backed the secular-minded opposition to Bashar al-Assad from the start.
In Gil Reich’s thread “Cheer Up! The Bright Side of the Middle East” (a welcome dose of optimism), he repeats a popular claim about Russia’s diminished role in world affairs since the end of the Cold War. Russia and China support the Iran – Assad axis. But today’s Russia and China have neither the power nor […]
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Let us begin our tour with a quarrel in a faraway country. As Yahoo Japan reports, “A Vietnamese fishing vessel has sunk after being rammed by a Chinese vessel and the 10 fishermen have been rescued. While Vietnam has not responded yet, the Coast Guard warned “the situation at the site it very tense.”‘
This is not an isolated incident, but rather an escalation of recent tensions. It is most likely a response to last week’s announcement of cooperation between Vietnam and Japan, which followed the Chinese “deploying an oil rig off the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam also claims, leading to physical clashes between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels.”
The US economy has been the world largest since 1872 when it overtook the UK’s. A heckuva run, no doubt. But that may end this year, according to the Financial Times:
The US is on the brink of losing its status as the world’s largest economy, and is likely to slip behind China this year, sooner than widely anticipated, according to the world’s leading statistical agencies.
In the latest installment of the Strategika podcast for the Hoover Institution (the last one for awhile — our next installment of shows will be on Russia, with Kori Schake, Thomas Donnelly, and Ralph Peters), I talk with Ian Morris — archaeologist, historian, and the Willard Professor of Classics at Stanford University — about the prospects of the future relationship between the United States and China being cooperative.
Professor Morris shares his impressions of how the relationship is perceived overseas (he recently returned from Hong Kong), considers the question of which historical power represents the best analogy for modern China, and looks at the shortcomings of the U.S. “pivot” to the Pacific.
One of my favorite guests for Hoover Institution podcasts is retired Admiral Gary Roughead, former Chief of Naval Operations, who always brings unparalleled insight and acumen to discussions of foreign affairs.
In this episode of Strategika, we talk about how America can manage China’s rise. Is the Obama Administration’s “pivot” to Asia worth the candle? What are the factors that will determine whether China is relatively benign or explicitly hostile in its relations with the wider world? Does the crisis in Ukraine bode ill for the future of Taiwan? These and other topics occupy our time together.
For a direct download of this show, click here.
In a new installment of the Strategika podcast for the Hoover Institution, I talk with Edward Luttwak, Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, about how China’s history should influence how we think about the country today.
Will China’s rise inevitably be as an antagonistic power? What can the United States do to counter an emboldened Beijing? Has China tipped its hand too early about its regional ambitions? Professor Luttwak answers all those questions and more in this wide-ranging conversation.
To download this podcast directly, click here.
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.
Three weeks ago, in a Ricochet post, I suggested that Russia’s President is a clown, posturing in a manner apt to do his country and his own standing enormous harm. “Vladimir Putin,” I wrote, “wants to be remembered as the man who restored Russia to its proper place in the sun as a world power. There is only one problem with this ambition. Russia does not now have the means by which to pursue it, and it is not going to acquire the requisite means. Even if Putin succeeds in dismembering the Ukraine, he and his country will lose, and they will lose big.” Then, I explained,
To begin with, they will alienate all of their neighbors in Europe, and they will persuade not just Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Roumania, and Slovakia that Russia is a rogue power that must at all costs be weakened and contained. They will persuade the Germans, the Italians, the French, and the British that their neighbors to the East are right. And this means that NATO will be rejuvenated, and that the Europeans will once again look to us for leadership. That is one problem. There is another. The Russians do not have the economic base requisite for such an assertion of power. Russia is a banana republic with nuclear weapons. Economically, it is almost as dependent on resource extraction as Saudi Arabia, and the pertinent resource is slowly being depleted. In effect, Putin’s Russians are eating their seed-corn. They could have liberalized the Russian economy. They could have drawn closer and closer to the European Union with an eye to joining it eventually. They could have reinvested the profits from their sale of oil and gas in industry. They could have prepared for a future in which they will have little in the way of oil and gas to sell. Instead, they are wasting their resources on ships, planes, and soldiers that they do not need and cannot to good effect use. At the same time, Putin’s Russia is ignoring the only strategic threat it faces. The United States is not Russia’s enemy. It is not even a rival. We once had an interest in containing and dismembering the Soviet empire in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself. We have no interest in further reducing Russia’s extent; and, insofar as we see Russia as a potential trading partner, our interest lies in Russian economic development. The same can be said even more emphatically for Germany, France, Britain, and the other countries in Europe. There is, however, one country with an imperial past and a renewed craving for empire that has territorial ambitions which make of it a threat to Russia, and that country is China. Russia is suffering a demographic implosion. It will be difficult for it to hold what it has. It is, moreover, well nigh impossible to get Russians to move to Siberia. It is not a pleasant place in which to live. The majority of those who live there today are not Russian. Many of them are Chinese who have journeyed north in search of well-paid work; and China, which is just across the border from Siberia, is an economic juggernaut increasingly desperate for resources of the very sort that are found in abundance in Siberia. Vladimir Putin should think hard about the precedent he is setting in the Crimea. The day may come when China does to Russia in Siberia what he is trying to do right now to the Ukraine in the Crimea. Putin’s government piously states that its only concern is to protect the majority Russian population in the Crimea from the Tatars and the Ukrainians there. China, in time, will say the like about the Chinese in Siberia. And when that day comes, he will have alienated everyone of any significance who might otherwise have rallied to Russia’s defense. Our aim for the past seven decades has been to reorder the world in such a fashion as to make war counter-productive. The name of the game is commerce. The weapon we deploy is simple and powerful. Those who agree to leave their neighbors alone and to allow freedom of commerce can profit from a a world-wide economic system that will enrich everyone. Those who buck that system and opt for imperial ventures will be contained, weakened, and defeated. This is a lesson that France and Germany have taken to heart. But Vladimir Putin is simply too dumb to notice. He is a product of Russia’s attempt to imitate Charles V of Spain, Louis XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and Adolf Hitler of Germany in attempting to establish a universal monarchy in Europe and beyond. They failed, as did Joseph Stalin and his successors, and Putin, who has forgotten nothing that the Soviets taught and learned nothing from the failure of the old Soviet Union, will fail as well. In failing, moreover, this product of the old KGB will do his long-suffering compatriots a great deal of unnecessary harm.
I recommend to everyone this piece on the present and expected future interplay between China, Taiwan and the United States written by my former professor, John Mearsheimer. It is exceedingly well-written, very hard-headed, and reveals that Mearsheimer has done his homework when it comes to the history of China and Taiwan. It doesn’t make for comfortable reading if one is Taiwanese, American, or a member of any Asian country that seeks to offset or balance against Chinese hegemony in Asia, but, if anything, the unsettling nature of the piece makes it all the more important.
Speaking of well-written Mearsheimerian articles, check out this recent one on the crisis concerning Russia and Ukraine, and the state of American policymaking. Again, Mearsheimer lays out the facts persuasively, accurately gauges each side’s interests and bargaining power, and then offers policy prescriptions that demonstrate a realistic understanding of the situation at play.