The Roosevelt administration once talked loudly of pivoting to Asia to thwart a rising Japan. As a token of its seriousness, in May 1940 it moved the home port of the Seventh Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor — but without beefing up the fleet’s strength.
The then-commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral James O. Richardson, an expert on the Japanese Imperial Navy, protested vehemently over such a reckless redeployment. He felt that the move might invite, but could not guard against, surprise attack.
Richardson was eventually relieved of his command and his career was ruined — even as he was later proved right when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Britain at the same time promoted a loud Singapore Strategy, trumpeting its Malaysian base as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.” But London did not send out up-to-date planes, carriers, or gunnery to the Pacific.
Japan was not impressed. It surprise-attacked the base right after Pearl Harbor. The British surrendered Singapore in February 1942, in the most ignominious defeat in British military history.
By 1949, the U.S. was pledged to containing the expansion of Communism in Asia — even as Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson (who had been chief fundraiser for Truman’s 1948 campaign) declared that the Navy and Marines were obsolete. He began to slash both their budgets. Continue reading “Loud + Weak = War”→
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 to 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. Continue reading “Our Icarus-in-Chief”→
Does Barack Obama have a strategy? He is often criticized for being adrift.
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. Continue reading “Obama’s Recessional”→
The gangster state of North Korea became a nuclear power in 2006–07, despite lots of foreign aid aimed at precluding just such proliferation — help usually not otherwise accorded such a loony dictatorship. Apparently the civilized world rightly suspected that, if nuclear, Pyongyang would either export nuclear material and expertise to other unstable countries, or bully its successful but non-nuclear neighbors — or both.
The United States has given billions of dollars in foreign aid to Pakistan, whose Islamist gangs have spearheaded radical anti-American terrorism. Ever since a corrupt Pakistan went nuclear in 1998, it has been able to extort such foreign-aid payouts — on fears that one of its nukes might end up in the hands of terrorists.
By any measure of economic success or political stability, without nuclear weapons Pakistan would not warrant either the cash or the attention it wins.
An observant Iran appreciates three laws of current nuclear gangbanging:
1. Nuclear weapons earn a reputation.
2. The more loco a nuclear nation sounds, the more likely it is that civilized states will fear that it is not subject to nuclear deterrence, and so the more likely that they will pay bribes for it to behave. Gangbangers always claim they have nothing to lose; their more responsible intended targets have everything to lose.
3. As of yet there are no 100 percent effective nuclear-defense systems that can guarantee non-nuclear powers absolute safety from a sudden attack. The nuclear gangbanger, not the global police, currently has Continue reading “Nuclear Gangbangers”→
The American custodianship of the postwar world for the last 70 years is receding. Give it its due: The American super-presence ensured the destruction of Axis fascism, led to the eventual defeat of Soviet-led global Communism, and spearheaded the effort to thwart the ability of radical Islam to disrupt global commerce in general and Western life in particular. Continue reading “The World’s New Outlaws”→