We have not had a major terrorist attack on United States soil since 911.
That may be because the one thing our enemies, be they nation states or more indefinable terror groups, know is that the one thing that will provoke a deadly response from the United States is killing people on its home territory (I just robbed that thought from an article in The Economist).
And only being mildly sarcastic here, but our response might not be on the right subjects. My thought.
But I am reading that the world is wondering if anything else could make us fight after such an amazing backdown in Syria where our president declared that if that nation’s outlaw regime used chemical weapons we would respond and then even said indeed they did and we were (going to respond) but then could not get support from congress, even though he said he did not need it, and backed down. Yeah there is some kind of agreement to rid the nation of its poison gas weapons but the progress on that is unclear and the regime there continues to murder its own people.
Now I’m not sure that moving militarily on the Syrian regime would have been in the best interests of the U.S. or whether doing more to help the rebels would move the situation in our favor. I do feel, though, that it is not a good idea to draw a line in the sand and then step back and draw another one. Don’t make the assertion in the first place, lest you lose credibility and embolden foes around the world.
And speaking of emboldening foes — here we go again in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is ignoring threats to react by the U.S.
No one wants to go to war there, and the Europeans have economic interests that are at stake and don’t feel in any position to go to war, even as they fear the advance of Russia.
And then there is North Korea. That nation is run by a mad man, the son of a late mad man. And it has nuclear weapons capability and is hard at work developing a missile to reach the U.S. But all the U.S. does is threaten.
China is becoming a world power to rival the U.S. and has not had to fire a shot. It let the U.S. waste blood and treasure in Iraq and then grabbed oil supplies there. And I believe I have read it is eyeing mineral deposits in Afghanistan. It supports the Syrian regime. And now I read that Israel has struck some kind of military deals with China. Thanks a lot Israel, you who depend upon the U.S. for survival amidst neighbors who despise you.
Since World War II, the European democracies have lived under the shelter of the U.S. and have spent precious little on defense, as compared to the United States. The same goes for nations in Asia who are otherwise in our corner.
(To be fair, Japan has been constrained militarily by the U.S. since it lost World War II, and by its own internal law.)
Some of this is 20/20 hindsight, but I personally think the U.S. has been played for a sucker both by our friends who let us do most of the heavy lifting and by enemies who have forced our hand and made us weaken ourselves with costly but unfruitful wars in Southeast Asia and then in the Middle East. I mean on some of this, who knew?
(Giving credit where credit is due, other nations have helped us, and long ago in Vietnam South Korea was reported to be a big help, as was Australia.)
There has been some move in the U.S. back toward an almost pre-World War II-style isolationism.
I would almost like that, if it were not the fact that we have been the toughest kid on the block for so long that now we have to remain so for our own survival. A lot of folks out there rightly or wrongly (wrongly for the most part) want to take us down. We really can’t afford to be anything other than number one — but we are losing that position slowly or not so slowly, but surely.
What to do, what to do…
I don’t think cutting back on our military Obama style is the way to go. If anything I would build it up, although anything to make it more efficient is in order. We don’t need more fancy officers’ clubs and exotic weapons systems, although we do need state-of-the-art systems. What we need is a large, very large, well-trained (and well-paid) force, backed up by a continued Selective Service system, and maybe a mandatory draft for all young men (somehow many have developed the attitude that defending the nation is someone else’s job). While the role for women in the military has been greatly expanded, I personally am not ready for the idea of a draft for women.
Making military duty mandatory could serve as a check, using popular opinion in a democracy, against the nation getting into unnecessary wars.
And David Brooks of the New York Times said in a recent column that we need to have alliances around the world to help protect our interests.
I think we need alliances, such as NATO, but we must insist that member nations step up to the plate and do their share, otherwise we might just have to decide not to be there for them when they need it.
Now I am somewhat uncomfortable with military alliances if they ever put American troops under foreign command. I mean that cannot happen. Yes, it might seem unfair that we expect other nations to operate under our military command if there is an attack by hostile forces, but, hey, we’re the biggest kid on the block and have the most to lose. That’s just the way it is.
A big long article in The Economist (out of Great Britain) concluded thusly:
“Some will celebrate the decline of America’s ability to deter. But wherever they live, they may find that whatever replaces the old order is much worse. American power is not half as scary as its absence would be.”
I believe that is a true statement.
I’m no war hawk. I think we have to choose our battles wisely (if there are to be any). I like the idea that we are negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program and just hope our own intelligence (which seems to be lacking at times) can determine if we are being played for a fool.
As for North Korea, we really need to make a deal with China and rein it in. Even China is uneasy with that rogue regime.
(I’m not so sure but what a CIA hit is in order. But only if we can’t get the Chinese to do something.)
Sadly we are devoid of leadership in this nation.
In my lifetime there has been precious little leadership. I can’t really count Eisenhower because I was too young. JFK was a true leader but his time was cut short. Lyndon Johnson was on the domestic level with his civil rights bill and his war on poverty (which probably went astray or was eventually starved of funds in some instances), but that is about it. Okay, even though I did not care for Ronald Reagan’s politics, I will give him credit for leadership — he helped bring a speedier end to an already dying communist empire that forced so many under the yoke of oppressive regimes and stifled free will and human progress.
Even though it is late in the game, we still don’t know what the final outcome will be for the Obama presidency, but one fears that when it is all said and done it may turn out to have been more show than substance, more talk than action. He is a deliberate and careful man, and that can be good. But sometimes we just need strong leadership.