World War II did not begin when the German army entered Poland, but when Britain and France began to appease Hitler. The war was only a matter of waiting around for the inevitable. And now we are the ones watching and waiting for the inevitable.
For half a century, the United States kept the peace through the force of its existence. There were some difficult times, but for the most part it was the sheer bulk of its military budgets and the ranks of nuclear warheads that prevented not only the big war, but also most of the little wars.
The left complained incessantly about those budgets and those missiles. It draped itself in peace signs and slapped on bumper stickers like “Cukes Not Nukes”. Its entertainers made movies ridiculing generals who believed in the balance of power as maniacs. Its pundits wrote books explaining why every problem in the world was caused by American power being used to aid fascist dictators and keep down progressive rebels like Che and Pol Pot.
And then American power finally collapsed. There had been early warning signs under Carter and Clinton, but with Obama it finally happened. The message went out that there was no longer a great power to serve as a stabilizing influence. If anyone wanted to discuss global warming or a fund to empower women in Southeast Asia, they could come down to Washington, but if they wanted to discuss how to use the balance of power keep the world from falling apart, they were out of luck.
The message was received. It was received in Cairo where the Muslim Brotherhood got to work overthrowing allied governments and replacing them with theocracies. It was received in Asia where China and North Korea set to work moving in on American allies.
The Middle East is burning. Asia looks like it might be next. The experts offer all sorts of proposals from giving more free stuff to North Korea to giving free stuff to the Syrian rebels instead, but stability against aggression can’t be achieved with giveaways. Even soft power requires hard power behind it. When there’s no hard power then the soft power is helpless.
Asia and the Middle East are the Post-American wars of a Post-American administration. They are the conflict of the power vacuum that Obama left in his wake.
The Middle East is a grenade. American power was the pin. When Obama pulled the pin, the unstable elements went off and the natural conflicts between Shiite and Sunni broke out again. And those won’t be the last conflicts. The region is a tinderbox of ethnic and religious tensions. American power couldn’t keep a lid on all of them, but it provided a stabilizing element that is gone now.
In his Cairo speech, Obama ceded American influence in the Middle East. And the fight was on to fill the vacuum as leaders allied with the United States lost their support from Washington.
The Islamists smashed the left. The Sunni and Shiite Islamists began waging a bloody war over Syria, Bahrain and soon enough, Lebanon and Iraq. And with Iran developing nuclear weapons and Turkey fighting a proxy war with it in Syria, the fighting won’t end there.
It doesn’t matter whether Obama gets tugged by UK’s Cameron and France’s Hollande into throwing the weight of whatever firepower survived four years of military budget cuts into the game on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1955 that would have been a power play; now it’s just pathetically currying favor with the forces that took down our regional allies.
The Middle East is in the middle of a Post-American war. The humanitarian crises, the bombings, murders and rapes that the media splashes across every channel and paper are the wages of Hope and Change.
American power was never the problem. American weakness was. Carter couldn’t figure out international power politics and gave us Iran. Clinton couldn’t figure it out and gave us Al Qaeda. Obama topped them both by taking down almost every allied government in the region.
The man who lectured cheering Socialist grandees before the Iraq War on only fighting smart wars failed to understand that sometimes you start wars through aggression and other times you start them through weakness.
The Arab Spring was a pipe dream. The future of the region will not be decided by elections. It will be decided by bullets. Everyone in Syria knows that, but Washington D.C. is still slow on the uptake. The future does not belong to Social Democrats, not in the Middle East or even in Europe, it belongs to roving gangs carving out spheres of power and defending them against weak governments.
The next Post-American War looks to be breaking out in Asia. American power froze the natural conflicts of the region. Now with American power subtracted from the equation, the postponed conflicts between Japan and China and between South Korea and North Korea have returned.
Obama’s pivot toward Asia consists of sending Hanoi John to reassure South Korea and Japan that the United States will support them in trying to negotiate with Kim III. Japan and South Korea are willing to take the cheap photo ops, but their governments are not formulating their plans based on American support. Japan and South Korea have shifted more to the right because they know that the days when they could count on American power are gone.
Like the Islamists in the Middle East, China and North Korea are moving against countries that had grown dependent on a regional stability built on American power. South Korea and Japan are adapting themselves to a world in which America is good for little more than sending out emissaries to propose more negotiations while its diplomats pay more attention to Global Warming and the Palestinian peace process than to North Korea’s threats of war.
The withdrawal of American power has implications beyond Asia and the Middle East.
How much of its old sphere of influence will Russia try to claw back from NATO? Obama sold out Poland on missile defense and sent the message that Russia can do whatever it pleases and Obama will try to do his flexible best not to notice.
The Latin American left is more toxic and dangerous than it has been in a long time. Cuba may be tottering and Chavez may be dead, but the left isn’t. There’s more south of the border than just cheap labor and cheap votes. Brazil is a powerhouse and Iran is poking its nose into Venezuela.
Africa is toppling toward the abyss of a religious war between Christians and Muslims. The Muslims are backed by the wealth and power of the Gulf. The Christians are backed by no one. The Post-American world order is creating a more dangerous world where power is secured through brutal violence and those who emerge victorious will not, in the long run, leave us alone.
The Post-American World War has begun. It will either end with the destruction of the United States or its reemergence as a world power.
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