Should the United States fail to protect the global commons, no like-minded power will take its place. https://t.co/Kdh1RRWAIX— Foreign Affairs (@ForeignAffairs) August 18, 2016
The next U.S. president will inherit a security environment in which the United States confronts mounting threats with increasingly constrained resources, diminished stature, and growing uncertainty both at home and abroad over its willingness to protect its friends and its interests. Revisionist powers in Europe, the western Pacific, and the Persian Gulf—three regions long considered by both Democratic and Republican administrations to be vital to U.S. national security—are seeking to overturn the rules-based international order. In Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin has seized Crimea, waged proxy warfare in eastern Ukraine, and threatened NATO allies on Russia’s periphery. Further demonstrating its newfound assertiveness, Russia has dispatched forces to Syria and strengthened its nuclear arsenal. After a failed attempt to “reset” relations with Moscow, U.S. President Barack Obama has issued stern warnings and imposed economic sanctions, but these have done little to deter Putin.Sounds great.
Nor has the administration’s “pivot” to Asia, now five years on, been matched by effective action. China continues to ramp up its military spending, investing heavily in weapons systems designed to threaten U.S. forces in the western Pacific. As a result, it is proving increasingly willing and able to advance its expansive territorial claims in the East China and South China Seas. Not content to resolve its disputes through diplomacy, Beijing has militarized them, building bases on natural and artificially created islands. The United States has failed to respond vigorously to these provocations, causing allies to question its willingness to meet its long-standing security commitments.
The lack of U.S. leadership is also fueling instability in the Middle East. In Iraq, the Obama administration forfeited hard-won gains by withdrawing all U.S. forces, creating a security vacuum that enabled the rise of both Iranian influence and the Islamic State, or ISIS. Adding to its strategic missteps, the administration fundamentally misread the character of the Arab Spring, failing to appreciate that the uprisings would provide opportunities for radical Islamist elements rather than lead to a new democratic order. The administration also failed to learn from the previous administration’s experience in Iraq when it chose to “lead from behind” in Libya, intervening to overthrow Muammar al-Qaddafi, only to declare victory and abandon the country to internal disorder. It then drew a “redline” over President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria but failed to act to enforce it. The result is growing instability in the Middle East and a decline in U.S. influence.
The threat of Islamist terrorism has grown on the Obama administration’s watch. Al Qaeda and ISIS, both Sunni groups, have gained new footholds in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and even West Africa. Obama’s negotiations with Iran, the home of radical Shiite Islamism, have not curbed the country’s involvement in proxy wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen or its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. What the talks did produce—the nuclear deal—may slow Tehran’s march to obtaining a nuclear weapon, but it also gives the regime access to tens of billions of dollars in formerly frozen assets. The ink on the agreement was barely dry when, in March, Tehran tested ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, in blatant defiance of a UN Security Council resolution. Adding to all this instability, military competition has expanded into the relatively new domains of outer space and cyberspace—and will eventually extend to undersea economic infrastructure, as well.
With the current approach failing, the next president will need to formulate a new defense strategy. It should include three basic elements: a clear statement of what the United States seeks to achieve, an understanding of the resources available for those goals, and guidance as to how those resources will be used. The strategy laid out here, if properly implemented, will allow the United States to preclude the rise of a hegemonic power along the Eurasian periphery and preserve access to the global commons—without bankrupting the country in the process...
Frankly, I'm not worried about the U.S. maintaining its material preponderance, even with China supposedly "catching up."
It's that we need robust, non-politically correct leadership. Global preponderance is a state of mind as well as an objective reality. I'd argue that President Barack Hussein wanted to chop the U.S. down to size, to attack U.S. global hegemony at home, for ideological reasons. He's still doing with his appeasement and apology tours.
America will lead again, in both word and power. It's just a matter of the political dynamics. A Hillary Clinton administration's just going to be four more years of Obama's failed policies. But the pendulum is going to swing back to American exceptionalism at some point. Of that I remain optimistic.
But keep reading, in any case.