Nasty, brutish and short

During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.

To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.

No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

Thomas Hobbes

Under the command of Barack Obama, the USA is galloping out of the Middle East. This is both because Obama does not want his attention to domestic issues to be diverted by foreign entanglements, and because the US is no longer able to apply its power to the extent necessary to control events in the region.

Unfortunately, before precipitously withdrawing the US flailed about like a whale in a swimming pool, smashing existing political structures (Iraq, Libya) without giving sufficient consideration to what would replace them. It did not intervene where it should have (Syria) and took the wrong side in other cases (Egypt). It almost completely ignored sub-Saharan Africa, which has already regressed into a Hobbesian state of nature. And last but assuredly not least, it unleashed Iran as a soon-to-be nuclear regional powerhouse.

I also blame the previous administration. While I believe that George W. Bush was an idealist with the best of intentions, he and his team were way out of their depth.

The loss of control which has allowed truly barbaric entities like ISIS and Boko Haram to arise also prompted a mass migration, unprecedented in modern times, from the imploding regions into Europe, to which the ideological and moral bankruptcy of the European Union has contributed. The consequences of this will shortly be felt, and may include the destabilization of some countries that are considered ‘normal’ today. The state of nature will be coming to much of modern, progressive Europe too, in the near future.

So now the vacuum is being filled by an almost overwhelming variety of forces. Some, like the Islamic State and many of the militias fighting in Syria most likely do not have a future. Others, like the new Russian Empire or the rising Shiite caliphate under the auspices of the Islamic Republic of Iran, unfortunately do.

From Israel’s point of view, it seems like there is rarely any good news. Flush with cash as sanctions evaporate even before ‘implementation day’ of the nuclear treaty, Iran is buying weapons from Russia and forging an alliance with her in Syria. Israel has been reduced to begging Russia to let it interdict shipments of game-changing arms to Hezbollah; whether Hezbollah will receive them is now more in the hands of Russia than those of Israel.

Israel is a tiny nation with little strategic depth, Obama’s America is no longer necessarily an ally, and there are internal issues that weaken Israel. But she has survived until now against great odds. She has leaders who understand the threats, she has an air force that even great powers have reason to fear, and she has a nuclear deterrent. Her enemies, if I may repeat one of my favorite unattributed quotations, have never been able to remove their hands from each others’ throats long enough to destroy her. I’m guardedly optimistic.

The age of the American Empire will probably be measured by future historians as stretching from the end of WWII to just about now. One can speculate what date will be used to mark the beginning of the decline – the challenge offered on September 11, 2001 that was never really taken up? Or possibly the election of Barack Obama, who has been called “the first post-American president.” I myself prefer to use the Iran deal – an unforced surrender to perhaps America’s greatest enemy – as the marker.

One thing that is certain is that the downhill trip will be rapid. Obama’s posturing in the international arena is already being recognized as such, while Vladimir Putin and Iran achieve objective after objective. As J. E. Dyer pointed out, Obama has lost credibility with allies and partners, not to mention deterrence with enemies. And although this might change, there seems to be little competent opposition to the Obamist ideology in the US.

America has so far been protected from massive Muslim immigration by its fortunate geography, but that may not last in the age of cheap air transportation. Americans who complain about uncontrolled immigration from Mexico and Central America have no idea how lucky they have been to receive immigrants who simply want a better life rather than ones whose ideology is directly opposed to the ideals of Western civilization, and who want to remake the world in accordance with their shari’a model.

Africa and much of the Middle East are in chaos, large chunks of Europe are already lost, Israel is endangered, and the US has lost its way. Unless the course of history can be reversed, even more of humanity will very soon be living lives that are “nasty, brutish and short.”

The US, at least on paper, is still the world’s strongest economic and military power. It is still possible – I hope – to reverse its decline so that it can once again be a source of strength for democratic states around the world, a counterbalance to the aggressive Russians and Chinese, and a force to prevent the Iranian takeover of the Middle East. That will mean, at the very least least, doing whatever is necessary to prevent the nuclear armament of Iran.

But that would take a kind of leadership that America hasn’t seen in generations.

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One Response to Nasty, brutish and short

  1. Robman says:

    Once again, Vic, you’ve nailed it.

    I think there are leadership possibilities on the horizon, here in the U.S. No candidate is ever going to be perfect, but my own “top tier” in terms of a combination of the extent to which I agree with them, and my estimation of the electability, is populated by Rubio, Florin, and Carson, in no particular order. I think a ticket with any combination of two from these three would be unbeatable, and would go a long way towards providing the kind of leadership we both agree is needed.

    No, I don’t think Trump is going to be nominated. He’s kind of a “fad” candidate right now for the “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” crowd, but when he is forced to seriously debate policy – especially foreign policy – he will come across as shallow and stupid, and I expect people will lose interest in him. That, in turn, is because I expect our foreign policy problems to deepen and intensify in the final months of Obama’s term of office…and Americans are going to be looking for serious leadership, not a self-important big-mouth.

    Hope all is well with you over there. Keep the faith.

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