Matthew Continetti writes at the Free Beacon,
We are flying blind. And the problem is much larger than the Middle East. A rudderless America, in a moment of transition, is heedlessly reacting to events rather than influencing them. What Halford Mackinder dubbed the world-island of Eurasia is ringed by wars both hot and cold—from the Baltics to the Donbas, across the Shiite crescent, along the Indo-Pakistani border, through the South and East China Seas.
Putin tests NATO, fuels guerilla war in Ukraine, and pummels Aleppo. Turks fight ISIS and Kurds. America fights ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Iran sends aid to Hezbollah, militias to Syria, and swift boats to the Straits of Hormuz. India and Pakistan battle over Kashmir. Americans fight in Afghanistan. China builds its forces in the Pacific. North Korea flirts with nuclear war.
This planet is laced with dynamite. Only one spark is necessary to light it up. And the chances of miscalculation are immense.
Our leaders are not exactly up to the task. John Kerry is possibly the most feckless, credulous, blithering secretary of State in U.S. history. President Obama is on his way out. Secretary Clinton is more eager to use force, defends our intervention in Libya as a success, and would have something to prove early in her term as the nation’s first woman president. Kaine’s response to any criticism of world affairs is “Bin Laden.” Pence decided just to make up his own policy. And Trump—well, we can only begin to imagine.
Niall Ferguson wrote a book in 2006 I highly recommend. The argument of The War of the World is that the first and second world wars were indistinct. They were but phases of one giant conflagration incited by three factors. All of them are present today.
Ethnic Conflict. The move toward nationalism and sectarianism heightens tensions between nations and within them: Shia versus Sunni, Arab versus Persian, Muslim versus non-Muslim, Salafi versus heretic, Chinese versus Vietnamese versus Japanese versus Korean.
In the meantime the surge of Muslim refugees and economic migrants from the Middle East and Africa is reshaping the politics of Europe. Anti-immigrant parties are on the rise in Germany, in France, in England. Nor is the United States immune. Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick, Donald Trump, the alt-right—racial politics is polarized, social cohesion frayed.
Empires in Decline
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly punctured national self-confidence, soured elites and the public on intervention. They also gave us the ambivalent leadership of President Obama, who destabilized one alliance after another as he cut defense budgets, mishandled Russia, emptied Guantanamo, labeled half-measures a “pivot” to Asia, drew red lines and ignored them, turned the Department of Defense into a social justice lab, belittled our friends, and catered to our enemies.
The result is an anxious Europe, a bloodstained Middle East, growing dangers to U.S. forces in the Pacific, and an inward-looking America that, I fear, has neither the strategy nor the will to sustain a global order it paid so much in blood and treasure to obtain.
Read more here.