Category Archives: International Relations

America’s New Anti-Strategy

Our allies and our enemies have seriously recalculated where the U.S. stands.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

It was not difficult to define American geopolitical strategy over the seven decades

Axis & Allies board game djensen47 via Flickr

Axis & Allies board game
djensen47 via Flickr

following World War II — at least until 2009. It was largely bipartisan advocacy, most ambitiously, for nations to have the freedom of adopting constitutional governments that respected human rights, favored free markets, and abided by the rule of law. And at the least, we sought a world in which states could have any odious ideology they wished as long as they kept it within their own borders. There were several general strategic goals as we calculated our specific aims, both utopian and realistic.

(1) The strategic cornerstone was the protection of a small group of allies that, as we did, embraced consensual government and free markets, and were more likely to avoid human-rights abuses. That eventually meant partnerships with Western and later parts of Eastern Europe, Great Britain, and much of its former Empire, such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In Asia, the American focus was on Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. The U.S. military essentially guaranteed the security of these Asian nations, and they developed safely, shielded from Soviet or Chinese Communist aggression, and more recently from Russian or Chinese provocations. Read more →

The Hitler Model

Why do weak nations like Russia provoke stronger ones like the United States?

by Victor Davis Hanson // Defining Ideas 

An ascendant Vladimir Putin is dismantling the Ukraine and absorbing its eastern territory in the Crimea. President Obama is fighting back against critics that his administration serially projected weakness, and thereby lost the ability to deter rogue

World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum

regimes. Obama, of course, rejects the notion that his own mixed signals have emboldened Putin to try something stupid that he might otherwise not have. After all, in terms of planes, ships, soldiers, nuclear strength, and economic clout, Putin must concede that he has only a fraction of the strength of what is at the disposal of the United States.

In the recriminations that have followed Putin’s daring intervention, Team Obama has also assured the international community that Putin is committing strategic suicide, given the gap between his ambitions of expanding the Russian Federation by threats of force and intimidation, and the rather limited means to do so at his disposal. Perhaps Putin is pandering to Russian public opinion or simply delusional in his wildly wrong calculations of all the bad things that may befall him.

Do any of those rationalizations matter—given that Putin, in fact, did intervene, plans to stay in the eastern Ukraine, and has put other former member states of the former Soviet Union on implicit notice that their future behavior may determine whether they too are similarly absorbed?

History is replete with examples of demonstrably weaker states invading or intervening in other countries that could in theory or in time bring to their defense far greater resources. On September 1, 1939, Hitler was both militarily and economically weaker than France and Britain combined. So what? That fact certainly did not stop the Wehrmacht over the next eight months from invading, defeating, and occupying seven countries in a row.

Hitler was far weaker than the Soviet Union. Still, he foolishly destroyed his non-aggression pact with Stalin to invade Russia on June 22, 1941. Next, Nazi Germany, when bogged down outside Moscow and having suffered almost a million casualties in the first six months of Operation Barbarossa, certainly was weaker than the United States, when Hitler idiotically declared war on America on December 11, 1941. Read more →

Western Arrogance and Decline

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

For three centuries the West built up enormous economic, cultural, and military capital that dwarfs and dominates that of the rest of the world. Other countries may hate and resent Europe and the United States, but they still have to imitate, adapt, or steal the technology, financial systems, and even popular culture of the Titus_LiviusWest. Yet this dominance has come at a price for Westerners, one that contains the seeds of our decline.

One baleful effect of this achievement has been the erosion of the virtues and ideals that created Western dominance in the first place, a phenomenon long recognized as the cost of national success. Two thousand years ago the Roman historian Livy, surveying the wreckage of the Roman Republic, invited his reader to contemplate the “life and manners” of his ancestors that led to their dominance, and “then, as discipline gradually declined, let him follow in his thoughts their morals, at first as slightly giving way, next how they sunk more and more, then began to fall headlong, until he reaches the present times, when we can neither endure our vices, nor their remedies.” Livy specifically linked this decline to the vast increase of wealth that followed the success of Rome, and that “introduced avarice, and a longing for excessive pleasures, amidst luxury and a passion for ruining ourselves and destroying every thing else.”

Clichés, one might say, but no less true for that. The astonishing wealth of the West, more widely distributed than in any other civilization, the abandonment of religion as the foundation of morals and virtues, the transformation of political freedom into self-centered license, and the commodification of hedonism that makes available to everyman luxuries and behaviors once reserved for a tiny elite, have made self-indulgence and the present more important than self-sacrifice and the future. Declining birthrates, a preference for Read more →

Our Icarus-in-Chief

Obama’s global fantasies are falling to earth along with him.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

In the last two weeks, we learned that Bashar Assad has dismantled only 5 percent of his WMD arsenal, despite President Obama’s soaring rhetoric Emblema_CIVto the contrary. Russia violated a long-observed agreement with the U.S. about testing missiles. Iran’s take on the negotiations over its bomb program bears no resemblance to our interpretation. Chinese officials now happily leak fantastic stories about using their military to punish Japan. All that is trumped by veiled threats from the Sunni Gulf monarchies, terrified of Iran, to buy a bomb or two from Pakistan. We hear other rumors that even China thinks the new leadership in North Korea is unhinged and is not worried about friendly warnings from Beijing.

Whether all these incidents are minor or serious, and whether they are random or interconnected and perceived as proof of the loss of U.S. deterrence, depends on which particular bad actor is studying them to try to guess whether the Obama administration will do anything should a provocateur start a war or attempt to redraw a regional map.

In short, our Icarus-in-Chief, without much foreign-policy experience but with youthful zeal and good intentions, soared far too high for his flimsy waxen wings. Now they are melting, and as the American commander-in-chief careens back to earth, lots of those below are wondering what will come next. Still, there is a lot of irony as Obama freefalls to earth. Read more →

Obama’s Recessional

There is nothing accidental about the president’s apparent foreign-policy blunders.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Does Barack Obama have a strategy? He is often criticized for being adrift.

cmccain202dc via Flickr

cmccain202dc via Flickr

Nonetheless, while Obama has never articulated strategic aims in the manner of Ronald Reagan or the two Bushes, it is not therefore true that there is no “Obama Doctrine.” Indeed, now that he has been in office five years, we can see an overarching common objective in otherwise baffling foreign-policy misadventures.

Collate the following: large defense cuts, the president’s suspicions that he is being gamed by the military, the pullout from the anti-missile defense pact in Eastern Europe, the pressure on Israel to give new concessions to its neighbors, the sudden warming up with an increasingly Islamist Turkey, the failed reset with Russia, radical nuclear-arms-reduction talks, the abject withdrawal of all U.S. peacekeeping forces in Iraq, the timetable withdrawals in Afghanistan, the new worries of our Asian and Middle Eastern allies, the constant euphemisms on the war on terror, the stepped-up drone attacks, the lead-from-behind removal of Moammar Qaddafi, the pullaway from Mubarak in Egypt, the support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the pink lines in Syria, the Iranian missile deal, the declaration that al-Qaeda was on the run and the war on terror essentially ending, the Benghazi coverup, and on and on. Read more →

Jumping Off the Global Tiger’s Back

The Obama administration has little interest in world leadership.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

The United States has ridden — and tamed — the wild global tiger since the end of World War II. The Globefrantic ride has been dangerous, to us, but a boon to humanity. At the same time, America’s leadership role has been misrepresented and misunderstood abroad and at home, including by some of our country’s own leaders. Accordingly, our current president, Barack Obama, has decided to climb down from the tiger, with the certain consequence that it will run wild again.

The crowning achievement of postwar American policy was the defeat of Soviet Communism. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, America aimed at a “new world order.” There was to be no place, at least in theory, for renegade dictators like Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic. After 9/11, the U.S. declared a “war on terror” and led an international effort to stop Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and Islamist jihadists.

Despite the occasional mishaps, setbacks, and errant strategies, U.S. leadership nonetheless ensured worldwide free commerce, travel, and communications. When it could, America promoted free-market economies and democracy in authoritarian states. Read more →

America Is Intervened Out

Our security interests have changed, along with out sense that we can make a difference.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Photo Credit: Spc. Alexander Naylor, US Army via Flickr

A PFC pulls security during a senior leader engagement with Afghan National Police in Bagram, Parwan province, Afghanistan, Sept. 7, 2013.

n the immediate future, I do not think the United States will be intervening abroad on the ground — not in the Middle East or, for that matter, many places in other parts of the world. The reason is not just a new Republican isolationism, or the strange but growing alliance between left-wing pacifists and right-wing libertarians.

Some of the new reluctance to intervene abroad is due to disillusionment with Iraq and Afghanistan, at least in the sense that the means — a terrible cost of American blood and treasure — do not seem yet to be justified by the ends of the current Maliki and Karzai governments. Few Americans are patient enough to hear arguments that a residual force in Iraq would have preserved our victory there, or that Afghanistan need not revert to the Taliban next year. Their attitude to the Obama administration’s unfortunate abdication of both theaters is mostly, “I am unhappy that we look weak getting out, but nonetheless happier that we are getting out.” Read more →

‘Game Changers’

by Victor Davis Hanson // Tribune Media Services 

When — not if — is the only mystery about an Iranian nuclear bomb.

All the warning signs are there.513px-Crocodile_warning_sign_02.svg

‘Game changers’

In 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama on two occasions went out of his way to warn the Iranians that the development of a nuclear weapon “would be a game-changing situation, not just in the Middle East, but around the world.” Obama later added, “It is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon; it would be a game changer.”

Strong language. And Obama twice this year again used “game changer” in reference to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, warning him not to dare use chemical weapons. In March, Obama announced to Assad that “the use of chemical weapons is a game changer.” A month later, Obama again warned Assad not to resort to WMD use: “That is going to be a game changer.” Read more →

Putin — Saruman Come Alive

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s The Corner

“It was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire woke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves.”

— J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers.

If it were regrettable that Vladimir Putin’s formidable diplomatic skills were wasted squashing rather than ensuring freedom inside Russia, it seems even more lamentable that his impressive prose likewise is not put to better use. Putin’s letter to us, the American people, is brilliant sophistry. The best rhetoric is always that which blends truth with half-truth and occasional fiction. In Putin’s case, he did all that—while offering the dessert of channeling Obama back to Obama.

Of course, as Putin reminds us, we fought together in WWII and should agree that such cooperation should be emulated. Russia suffered enormous losses for the Allied cause. Without such heroic sacrifices, the Anglo-American alliance may well have lost the war.

Yet Putin forgets to remind us that Russia’s war with Germany was prompted by betrayal. Russia was a de facto ally of Hitler. It kept sending him enormous amounts of material to help defeat France and Read more →

Now What?

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s The Corner

Via FlickrEveryone can agree that Obama’s handling of the crisis has been puerile, and that there now are only the proverbial bad and worse options—the  result being not whether the U.S. loses credibility, but only how much and for how long. So what comes next? Read more →