Russia, Iran & China Are Advancing As The U.S. Retreats

Editor’s Note: Over the last several days, I have been more than a little preoccupied with the near-record level of rains we have received in Central Texas and elsewhere around the state and the resultant flooding in many areas. The bad news is that numerous people have lost their lives in the floods; the good news is that the multi-year drought has been broken in many parts of Texas.

Long-time clients and readers will recall that my family and I reside on Lake Travis, a beautiful 65-mile long reservoir just outside Austin. The drought had left our lake only 40% full for the last three years, but with the recent heavy rains, I am happy to report that the lake is now 67% full and rising. We have seen a rise of 35 feet in just a month, with 15 feet of that in just two days this week. But with it rising so rapidly, that means extra chores for dock owners like yours truly.

For that reason, I have reprinted an excellent, but worrisome, editorial from The Wall Street Journal that ran on Memorial Day, which warns that President Obama’s appeasement of our enemies has made them dangerously more powerful. This is perhaps the best summary I have seen. Feel free to pass it along, as all Americans need to know what is happening.

“Rise of the Regional Hegemons

Vladimir Putin’s recent decision to sell S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran over U.S. objections is more than an embarrassment to the Obama Administration. It is also the latest evidence of an emerging new threat to world order and U.S. security: the rise of authoritarian regional powers [Hegemons].

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China, Russia and Iran are taking advantage of American retreat to assert political and (perhaps eventually) military dominance over their corners of the globe. They share a goal of reducing U.S. influence, bending neighbors to their political will, and ultimately using that regional base of power to diminish the global sway of Western democracies, especially the U.S. In addition to the rise of Islamic State, this will be the biggest strategic challenge for the next President.

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Americans can’t say they weren’t warned. Twenty-three years ago, in the waning days of the George H.W. Bush Administration, the Pentagon planning shop published a strategy document that set blocking the rise of regionally dominant powers as one of America’s most important security goals.

The Pentagon’s first two goals were to deter and defeat an attack on the U.S. and strengthen America’s global defense alliances. Then came the warning:

“The third goal is to preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests and also thereby to strengthen the barriers against the reemergence of a global threat to the interests of the United States and our allies. These regions include Europe, East Asia, the Middle East/Persian Gulf, and Latin America. Consolidated, nondemocratic control of the resources of such a critical region could generate a significant threat to our security.”

For 20 years and through administrations of both parties, the U.S. managed to contain the emergence of such regional threats. But that containment has broken down in Europe, the Middle East and East Asia during President Obama’s second term. Consider these regions in turn:

  • Iran is combining Shiite Islamist revolutionary fervor with traditional Persian imperialism in a bid to become the dominant power across the Middle East. Its militias or proxies already dominate Lebanon and much of Iraq and Syria and are making a play in Yemen.

    Tehran has also used its nuclear ambitions brilliantly as a lever to gain Western concessions. Under Mr. Obama’s “framework” accord, Iran is likely to emerge as a nuclear-threshold state free from sanctions with more resources to spend on regional militias and global terrorist promotion.

  • Perhaps the greatest long-term regional threat is a rising China with its rapid economic growth and desire to restore the Middle Kingdom to what its leaders see as their rightful dominance in East Asia. New Supreme Leader Xi Jinping has jettisoned Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of foreign-policy caution in favor of a new muscular nationalism.

Mr. Xi is fast building China’s military, including a blue-water navy and upgraded nuclear strike force. Beijing has asserted dubious legal claims over territory in the East and South China seas, and it is acting to make such claims a fait accompli.

It is building new islands on shoals in international waters that will be air and naval bases to project Chinese power, and then protesting when U.S. planes fly overhead.

The U.S. has countered with a “pivot” to Asia and by seeking to shore up alliances with Japan and in Southeast Asia. But the pivot has not been backed by adequate military resources, and our allies fear Mr. Obama would rather be rid of the burden. As China presses ahead with little resistance, the chance of a military miscalculation or confrontation increases.

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Some readers may concede much of this and say, so what? These powers are merely seeking to dominate their natural spheres of influence, and the U.S. should adjust and accommodate to what is inevitable. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration’s expectation has been that “the international community” will replace receding American power with a new cooperative order working through the United Nations. That hasn’t happened, and it won’t.

Instead we can already see the rising costs and dangers in a world where authoritarians grow in power. These emerging regional hegemons reject democratic values and the post-World War II liberal world order. They view the U.N. and other institutions as a means to check U.S. power not adhere to global norms.

They protect other despots and search for ways to undermine U.S. allies. They can also form alliances with one another, as Russia has with Iran on Syria and by selling its anti-aircraft system to Tehran. Over time regional powers can also become global threats, as Japan and Germany did a century ago, especially if they form authoritarian alliances.

This is the dangerous new-old world that Mr. Obama is leaving his successor. The next President will need an urgent strategy to contain and counter the rising threats.”

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