4/26/14

As I’ve written many times before, this administration and first and foremost President Obama are putting the world and U.S. domination of it in danger, and it will certainly come back to haunt the U.S. and at great cost.

As I predicted that may happen even on this president’s watch. Timing in foreign affairs used to be very long but like every other front in life, things are developing and moving much faster than they used to so it is quite possible that the breach will come while Obama is still the president.

The president has a policy that is based on words. He has a nearly Messianic belief in the power of the spoken word. He strongly believes in his moral superiority and intellectual supremacy and in his ability to “convince” people of the righteousness of his views and beliefs. Reality and facts notwithstanding, he and his secretary of state will keep papering the cracks and delaying the bitter end by worthless efforts at so-called diplomacy. The number of areas in which they spin their wheels talking, time after time, failure after failure is astounding. When will they realize that most heads of state do what in their view is in the best interest of their position and not what is right? In many cases these leaders take positions which they believe is for the good of their country, but in some cases it is what is good for them personally, and damn the consequences for their people and country. They are not going to be convinced by words. They are not going to be convinced by empty threats or worthless pieces of paper that they are happy to sign just in order to gain some PR value and time to achieve their desired and in most cases nefarious results.

It is not clear to me if the president really believes in his foreign policy or if he simply does not care about the long term or is he oblivious to the terrible consequences of his policies. Surely by now he must realize that talking, convincing, and his so-called “diplomacy” does not work. In his famous polemic On War general and well-known strategist Carl von Clausewitz says, “War is the continuation of Politik by other means.” The reverse of it is that you cannot have effective politics, in this case diplomacy, if your counterpart is assessing and assuming that you are NOT willing to go to war no matter what he does. Like any other negotiations diplomacy is about leverage and if you hold an empty hand and your counter party knows that, they will run roughshod all over you, which is what is happening all over the world right now.

The U.S. was a superpower. Unfortunately it is a superpower no more.

What is a Superpower? There could be many interpretations of what a Superpower is but ultimately it is the country that you are afraid of. The country that you do NOT want to cross. It is called the power of deterrence. Simplistically, the power of deterrence can be described as follows:

  • If you harm my finger, I will cut your hand off.
  • If you wound my arm, I will take your head off.

Some will say that the U.S. still possesses the most mighty military machine in the world. But what good is that if everyone, friend and foe, know that this administration is NEVER going to use this might? Starting from the level of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, going up to the Secretary of Defense and then the president, have you ever seen a less deterring bunch of leaders? A less impressive or confidence-inspiring group? A more appeasement-driven team? Looks and feelings aside, the clear and public policy of this president is to not use the military might. As such, deterrence is gone. Al Qaeda is not afraid, Assad is not afraid, Iran is not afraid, and of course China and Russia are not afraid. European countries will not follow the U.S. as there is no one to follow, no one to lead, and they know that they would be left alone at the altar if push comes to shove.

The same goes for the Middle East allies in the form of Egypt, Saudi, and even Israel. Egypt has clearly “pivoted” to Russia, Saudi criticizes the U.S. publicly, and pundits are surprised that Israel did not vote to condemn Russia’s Crimea exploit. Did they notice that a significant part of the world abstained in that vote, including China and India? Thanks to this president and his policies, the U.S. is Superpower no more.

To be clear this president cannot change the course he is on. I do not believe that he wants to change or that he even understands the need to change. But even if he wanted to change, the “pivot” (one of his favorite words) will be very difficult to achieve. Once you lose your credibility regaining it is nearly impossible. We are doomed for the next few years to suffer the consequences of his inept, naïve, and feckless foreign policy and they will be dire. The tragedy is, as President Reagan understood instinctively when it comes to geopolitics, what every American declares and firmly believes in when it comes to sports (and Obama is a great sports fan), that the best defense is attack. Thus the best way to avoid conflict is to be strong, to own the power of deterrence.

So why does it all matter, why should we care, why should the U.S. bother? Why not let them all fight and kill each other?

There are two consequences flowing from the lack of world superpower and lack of world leadership:

  1. Lawlessness: Throughout most of history the world was dominated by one or two superpowers. In the past they were called empires but they were there. In the second half of the 20th century, there were two Superpowers both so afraid of head-to-head conflict (Mutually Assured Destruction—MAD) that it kept the peace between the two very effectively. They kept the fighting between them to the periphery, the areas in the world where they could use proxies to fight for them and draw blood from the other Superpower (Korea, Vietnam, USSR’s Afghanistan disaster, Middle East, Africa, etc.).With the fall of the USSR the USA remained the only Superpower in the world and until this president dismantled it over the last five years it kept the world order as existed when the USSR shared power. Wars were kept to the periphery and the world at large felt generally safe. It is during such periods, of relative peace and safety in the main areas of the world, that civilization made its most strident steps forward. The Superpower provided order and security, which encouraged culture, academics, science, and mostly economic progress. Innovation thrived as did trade. The most known area for lack of such dominating power is the Middle Ages that not for nothing is known as the Dark Ages.
  2. World conflict: Allowing the malevolent regional powers to progress always ends with them challenging the things that matter, with them testing our endurance until they cross the line. Like any other bully or blackmailer they become more and more demanding as they are being allowed a pass for their smaller transgressions. Hitler started with small territorial takings and ended up in WWII. Furthermore in many cases these regional powers band together to take down the perceived world Superpower. At the end one always has to fight a war to the bitter end. A war to protect liberty and freedom. Evildoers are never satisfied; it is only a matter of time. All these conflicts that the president is at the moment avoiding are only getting delayed and will need to be addressed when at one stage or another one or more of these malevolent nations and leaders will cross the line. When that occurs the U.S. will be weaker, these players will be stronger, and the fight will be to the bitter end. Conflict delayed is a conflict enhanced.

The tragedy of it is that U.S. was a new kind of superpower, much more benign and most importantly shorn of any imperialistic tendencies. Historians will point to the possession and domination of other nations as the reason for the fall of all empires in the past. The U.S. had none of that which could have resulted in a very, very long “rule” over the world. There was NO NEED to dismantle the superpower. The dismantling of the last remaining, and most benign and beneficial, superpower will bring another round of “Dark Ages.” There high level of anxiety, lack of security, and lawlessness around the world will be followed by and cause deterioration in trade, innovation, culture, and a generally lower standard of living. Ultimately it will probably lead to a major war, possibly WWIII. While the price of this mistake will be delayed it will be very costly, much more so than if the U.S. kept its role as the world’s superpower active.

In the media many pundits and so-called analysts realize the situation and are doing everything they can to shield and protect their protégé—president Obama. As the facts are inescapable any more, the only way to defend the president is, as always, by blaming someone else. Indeed everyone else but the President. Bush is a favorite one, even five and a half years after he left the presidency. According to this mantra, Obama could not make a difference in five and a half years. Putin is also a good one. Of course he is to blame but the idea is that a U.S. president can be effective AGAINST an adversary.

Another really outrageous blame target is to fault the victim, in this case Ukraine. According to this mantra if the Ukrainians were more forceful about defending themselves the US would…here is where this storyline becomes a bit ambiguous. What would the US do then? Is it really even reasonable to expect Ukraine to be more forceful when the president of the US declares time and time again that there is no military option here and when they come asking for arms, they get military rations (Meals Ready to Eat)?

But the most popular excuse these pundits use to defend the president is the “public,” that amorphous entity that exists mainly in media pundits’ playbook. The public does not support another war (this encompasses the Bush’s fault theme too). What about the notion that a president needs to do the right thing EVEN if the “public” does not support it? What about the ability of a president to shape the “public’s” opinion using all his rhetorical power to explain, persuade, and convince the public to follow him because it is the right thing to do? Does the public EVER support a war that its leaders reject? This is of course the usual nonsense that we’ve come to expect from the media. As always it makes things worse and it is a total abdication of the media’s role as an objective, knowledgeable, and intelligent analyzer of facts.

The U.S.’s fall from power has domestic political consequences. The prevailing wisdom for many years used to be that: “it is about the economy, stupid.” That was the famous statement by James Carville, Bill Clinton’s legendary campaign strategist back in 1992. I am here to tell him and others that they are wrong.

Of course Americans, like everyone else, care first and foremost about what is happening at home, in their neighborhood, city, country, and only then in the world. But if the confluence of events and issues is such that people are worried about their safety and security then their mood, their “feel-good” factor will be affected and will influence their voting.

I believe that the accumulation of foreign policy failures is already such that it will affect the voting of people in the mid-term elections.

If things get worse, the president’s party is in for another “shellacking.”