Friday, January 02, 2015

The Planet is Settled

The notion that the president isn't screwing up our foreign policy because the world is actually getting more peaceful is misleading.

Don't you worry about the President's handling of world affairs! Remain calm! All is well!

As troubling as the recent headlines have been, these lamentations need a second look. It’s hard to believe we are in greater danger today than we were during the two world wars, or during other perils such as the periodic nuclear confrontations during the Cold War, the numerous conflicts in Africa and Asia that each claimed millions of lives, or the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq that threatened to choke the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf and cripple the world’s economy.

The author then runs through various statistics to show that violence is actually down worldwide.

While the gun deaths and sexual assault declines are welcome, they speak more against the fear-mongering panic on the Left about these topics than wars themselves.

I'll readily admit that we are safer than we were during the world wars and Cold War. But are we really judging the president's performance with these worst-case situations as the baseline? (Although that's how the president defends his budget record.)

If the question is how is the president doing, you have to measure his competence against the historical trend, now don't you?

This explanation for the recent uptick in wars is kind of funny:

Indeed, absent the Islamist conflicts, there would have been no increase in wars in the last few years, with just two in 2013 and three in 2014.

So other than Islamist-related wars, all is well? That's one point of the critiques of our president!

Despite being the anti-Bush, despite a lovely Cairo outreach speech to the Islamic world, despite embracing increasingly Islam-friendly Turkey and insulting Israel, despite having the middle name "Hussein," and despite "responsibly ending" our wars against jihadis in Iraq and Afghanistan, Islamist conflicts account for the recent increase in wars counter to the downward historic trend.

Ah, smart diplomacy.

Worse, the overall decline in wars and deaths has taken place in areas where we don't have vital interests. Yet as we pivoted away from the Middle East to focus on Asia, and as we thought Europe was safe, Asia remains under threat by a rising China while the Middle East burst into flames again and Europe has again become a point of conflict as Russia attempts to reverse the territorial losses of our victory in the Cold War.

A survey of those involved in foreign policy shows where our interests lie.

Sure, this isn't predictive since stuff can blow up in areas we aren't focused on. But it does indicate the problem areas right now that our president should be addressing with the tools at his disposal.

I'll give the president credit for reversing his neglect of Iraq, but that attention needs to be successful for him to get full credit.

And while Russia isn't highlighted as a (red) high priority region, it is the reason Ukraine is highlighted. Further, while America is highlighted, the reason is that our territory is obviously a high priority to defend against jihadi terrorists.

Looking at the areas we have interests in, are we really to be comforted in a national security sense by the fact that the death rate that raged in Congo and other gray areas on the map in the past have abated? Great for them, obviously. But their fate had little impact on our security as opposed to our conscience.

Further, with Russia getting all Putin-y, remember a major reason that the world has gotten safer the past 25 years:

Even with spectacular (at least in the media, which is no accident) threats like ISIL and Russia in Ukraine (and threatening to use nukes, wars continue to decline in number and intensity. Those that still exist get lots of publicity because that’s what the media does. But overall there are more conflicts ending (via negotiation, mutual exhaustion or one side actually winning) than new ones getting started. And new wars are more frequently quickly addressed with peacekeeping efforts. This is all a post-Cold War trend that has been going on since the 1990s. Let us hope it continues.

Most current wars are basically uprisings against police states or feudal societies which are seen as out-of-step with the modern world. Many are led by radicals preaching failed dogmas (Islamic conservatism, Maoism and other forms of radical socialism) that still resonate among people who don't know about the dismal track records of these creeds. Iran has replaced some of the lost Soviet terrorist support effort. That keeps Hezbollah, Hamas, and a few smaller groups going, and that's it. Terrorists in general miss the Soviets, who really knew how to treat bad boys right. [emphasis added]

If Russia gets back into the bad boy support business in a big way, kiss that overall trend goodbye.

So yeah, if you want to measure the president based on the past pre-Obama (which the president early in his presidency tended to dismiss--not just the Bush 43 era--as not his fault since he was so transformative), we're doing just fine. The statistics are settled. The planet is fine. Why are you complaining about the president?

But if you judge the president on just his term of office--let alone measuring against his lofty ambitions to transform the world by his mere presence and every sweet-sounding utterance--the world where we have interests in is worse.

And I worry that the last two years of his presidency are viewed as a window of opportunity for enemies and enemies-in-waiting.

I'm not the only one worrying (tip to Instapundit):

The crucial flaw in the Democratic left’s model of global governance is that it has little or no answer to containing or deterring the serious threats that emerge in any region of the world when the U.S. retreats from leadership. ...

The final two years of the Obama Presidency will thus be the most dangerous since the end of the Cold War as the world’s rogues calculate how far they can go before a successor enters the White House in 2017.

Yes. Imagine the shame of being the only rogue at the Axis of Evil convention without a trophy from the Obama era?

So be prepared to update those statistics.

UPDATE: Here's some place that shouldn't blow up but might given the odd behavior of their prime minister. Are you kidding me?

UPDATE: Why Nigeria is on the map:

A senator in Borno state said troops had abandoned the base in the town of Baga after it was attacked on Saturday.

Residents of Baga, who fled by boat to neighbouring Chad, said many people had been killed and the town set ablaze.

Baga, scene of a Nigerian army massacre in 2013, was the last town in the Borno North area under government control.

It hosted the base of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), made up of troops from Nigeria, Chad and Niger.

It was the last town in North Borno under government control? How strong is Boko Haram relative to the government when that can be the situation on the ground?

And how much worse will it get?