Thursday, March 30, 2017

They Came On in the Same Old Way

The outlines of a new world emerging from the post-Cold War placeholder are described in an article I just finished. Which is interesting. But about that imperial overstretch notion.

Okay, do read this. But what about this?

The strategic certainties and alliances of the post-Cold War world are all now facing severe challenges. The certainties of the period of globalization are clearly contested on many fronts. The causes of this crisis are multiple.

Some see the causes as originating in the imperial overreach of the United States in the Middle East. Others blame the imperial overreach of Europe to the borders of Russia. Some blame Russia and Putin for the seizure of the Crimea. But these causes will be the subject for future historians. [emphasis added]

I know a lot of people like to accuse America of faltering due to "imperial overreach" (aka "imperial overstretch"). It provides bonus damage by implicitly saying America is an imperial power like land-grabbing empires of the past.

But the imperial overstretch notion as applied to America in this era is wrong. America's defense burden has declined in this post-Cold War era (pre-whatever era we are seeing emerge) even as our relative power has experienced a period of expansion before declining again as our military power retrenched and the power of potential foes increases. Yet even now our relative power is dominant (although not invincible, to be clear).

The idea that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stretched us past the breaking point is nonsense.

We committed far more troops and suffered far more casualties in wars in Korea and Vietnam in eras when our relative power advantage was much smaller. So saying that now the environment shows we broke under the strain of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is based on nothing more than a long-held hope for some that finally somebody else (more deserving) will be dominant.

Really, at the most basic level the new environment seems to be one in which traditional power politics is replacing the Cold War polarizing Western versus Soviet communist environment that pushed actors into one of two rival camps in that era.

And on the aspect of redrawing of borders drawn after World War II in the Middle East, this is no solution.

After close to a century of adapting to those borders and an international system that made those borders mean something, simply drawing new borders there will create more problems that run counter to the adaptation of people and states to those "artificial" borders that have a reality that did not exist when drawn.

Read it all. But at some level the dramatic problems highlighted just seem like the result of time healing all wounds. We forget the severe challenges of the past and assume at some level that because they were overcome in the past that they were minor issues compared to the huge and complicated problems we face today with no idea how they will be resolved!!!

Anyway, America will be the major player in whatever new environment emerges to define the new era.

As I've long noted, even in a world where power is more evenly distributed, America will have the most uncommitted power able to be sent to tip the balance in any struggle around the globe--even in regional theaters where rivals have the most power.

Don't panic. Just work the problems.