The end of the Cold War brought about a global shakeup. The Soviet Empire ceased to exist, and the United States was widely proclaimed to be the most powerful nation on earth. Not only was the U.S.A. the strongest military power, but any other nation would inevitably fail to mount a successful challenge to America’s domination of the world’s geopolitical marketplace.
That was twenty or thirty years ago, and we all knew that big changes were pending. China was emerging from its shell and developing into the number two economy, and threatening to impose its will on much of the global economy. We have seen some of the results in the trade wars between the United States and China, and still others in the developing Russian military strength, extending into the penetration of Western defensive systems and flights into Western air space.
The Cold War essentially divided the world into two military spheres, and we no longer know how the divisions will shape up. Will the Chinese dominate the Pacific Ocean? Will the North Koreans extend their nuclear reach into the North American landmass? Will the Chinese economy continue to expand, or will it shrink? Will Russia find a way to expand its hegemony over Ukraine, or grant a measure of peace to the denizens of that land?
Meanwhile, the American political class reveled in the happy thought that our free market system was best equipped to cope with the stresses and strains of contemporary economic competition. A bestseller by Francis Fukuyama–a global bestseller at that—put it in Hegelian language, arguing that the United States had changed the makeup of the contending powers. America’s enemies had fallen, but the American system remained intact.
The global realignment included the radical Islamic states (crucially, Iran) and movements (above all, al Qaeda and the Islamic State). Radical Islam joined the alliance against the United States, as its adherents saw the urgency of bringing down the planet’s lone superpower. The American government saw the menace and indicted both Al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden:
Al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group, Hezbollah, for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. (Michael T. Flynn and Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight).
The indictment was issued shortly after the first World Trade Center bombing, years before the 9/11 assault that killed nearly three thousand Americans. An American judge ruled that Iran was the driving force behind the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, based on sworn testimony from former FBI director Louis Freeh, who found that two Iranian government security agencies and top members of the Iranian regime (including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and intel chief Ali Fallahian) were central figures in the plot. Later investigations found Iranian involvement in the second World Trade Center attacks, and extensive Iranian activity on the battlefields of the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
As General Flynn and I summed it up, “the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…is only one chapter in the story of the Iranian war against the West…” The same can be said about the alliance between radical Islam and the secular enemies of America in our own hemisphere, involving Hezbollah, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia.
We do not know how the great global shakeup will work out. We may lose this new confrontation. We do know that the contending powers have sorted themselves into various alliances that seek to undermine American dominance of the world scene, but they are, in their turn, beset with grave problems. The Chinese face an historic uprising in Hong Kong and among the Uyghurs and the Tibetans, the Russians are struggling to maintain control over increasingly restive protesters, the Cubans are fighting to preserve their hold over Venezuela, and the Iranians are working to maintain control over their restive citizens.
Meanwhile, the United States is building an ever stronger military force, and deploying Special Forces within and around enemy boundaries. It seems only a matter of time before the Trump Administration comes to grips with the enemy alliance, including the radical Islamic states and movements. With Egyptian President Sisi calling for a “religious revolution,” we must accept the necessity of defeating the jihadis within the Muslim world.