At the end of the Cold War in 1989, the common understanding was that with the emergence of the United States as the world’s single superpower, an era of order and peace would ensue. The perpetual struggle between nations vying for hegemonic dominance was over.
America had won and the world was better for it. Compared to Nazis, Communists, Islamists and others seeking control, America, as the worlds leading democracy, was clearly the least self-seeking and most committed to the common welfare.
It hasn’t worked out that way. Americans unfortunately over the ensuing decades have elected a series of manifestly unqualified leaders. Two undistinguished leaders of small southern states, two scions of a well-respected family with limited leadership instincts and a leftist “community organizer“ who had been an inconsequential member of a state legislature, but who orated well and wore great suits.
We most recently elected a lifelong politician with a reputation as an incompetent plagiarizer and a weakness for outrageous lying and corruption. At this writing, he seems set for a rematch in the next election against another incumbent who must be one of the most incurious, entitled and self-absorbed people to ever achieve high office.
Elections have consequences. America’s record of electing mediocre-at-best leaders has created a world very different from 1989. America’s standing in the world has sharply declined. Competition and chaos once again dominate international affairs.
America’s leaders no longer understand the critical importance of peace through strength. Instead, they seem to believe that successful statecraft is based on accommodation and concession. In a nuclear world, acting forcefully with enemies is just too risky. Better to make nice with autocrats and hope not to rile them up.
So we get the contrivances of “leading from behind“ and “red lines“ which disappear when needed to obscure the lack of resolve. Autocrats just read the concessions as weakness.
Allies learn to not depend on us.
For example, by 2010, the US was on the verge of a lasting victory in the Iraq war, which had been brokered by the Bush administration. But Obama, in his eagerness to respond to America’s war-weariness, botched the job.
He needlessly interfered in an Iraqi election, destroying the fragile coalition that had contained the terrorists. Then he mishandled the withdrawal of US troops, ignoring the agreements that had been forged with the Iraqis. The result was the collapse of American goals in Iraq and the resurgence of Islamist terrorism. A new organization called ISIS was inflicted on the world
In August 2021 President Biden ordered the immediate evacuation of troops and personnel from Kabul to end the Afghanistan War, based, he said, on the advice of senior US military officers and information that a collapse of the Afghan government was highly unlikely. But no such advice was actually given.
Instead, Biden’s haste to end the war without proper preparation squandered 20 years of American blood and sacrifice. Thirteen US service members were killed in a terrorist attack, hundreds of Americans were abandoned, and our trusted interpreters and local advisers were left in the lurch.
Military weaponry worth billions was simply abandoned as the Taliban once again assumed de facto control of the country. Sharia law and Islamist oppression of women resumed. Biden to this day insists he did nothing wrong.
America also regularly folds like an accordion in hostage negotiations. The deserter Bowe Bergdahl and basketball star Brittney Griner were both exchanged for pennies on the dollar in strategic value.
Recently, our negotiating geniuses agreed to swap five higher-value Iranian military personnel for five American civilians – and we even sweetened the pot by releasing $6 billion to the Iranians, which could only be used for humanitarian efforts.
Whoops! The Iranians immediately announced they would use the funds for whatever they pleased, including enriching uranium ore to near weapons-grade grade levels. State Department spokesman John Kirby explained that the deal was “the best we could achieve”.
The impotent superpower was humbled once again.
In a democracy, voters get what they deserve. Our leaders’ obvious mistakes are ours for electing them.
American needs to elect leaders who are principled, competent and decisive. Our next chance is coming up next year. It could be our last.
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