In the relentless rush to undermine the Trump administration the Left has adopted the view that the bellicose stance of the president towards North Korea, Iran, and yes, Russia is designed as a distraction. Presumably if one accepts this perverse logic, this hostile rhetoric, missile deployment and movement of military assets are a mere show of force to keep Americans from recognizing the destructive policies being introduced by the newly installed government.
What the president’s foes willfully underestimate is that there are national leaders who want to kill us. North Korea is not simply a police state and a moral outrage, it is an enemy intent on destroying the West. The attempt to develop an ICBM with range sufficient to reach California is an obsessive goal. Recently military forces redirected a North Korean satellite to take a north-south orbit rather than an east-west orbit so that it remains over North America for a longer period. The object is a possible EMP attack on the U.S. thereby paralyzing the nation. Kim Jong Un may be erratic, but he is not completely irrational.
Iran realizes that the United States led by by an assertive national security team is a counter weight to its desire for a Shia empire across the Levant, a reclamation of the Persian empire. After eight years of an Obama led foreign policy that tilted heavily to Iran, a new chapter is emerging in the Middle East that will not serve Iran’s interest. “Death to the Great Devil” is not an empty expression. While the Iranians do not have the capability of attacking the U.S. at the moment, they have been able to obtain North Korean nuclear technology and a deal from President Obama that virtually guarantees nuclear weapons possession some time in the future.
Russian strategy against the U.S. may be more subtle than North Korea and Iran, but it is not less dangerous. The Russians want to encircle American interests by creating a sphere of influence in East Europe and the Middle East. In order to accomplish its goal, it must force the U.S. to retreat from its present positions.
President Trump has his hands full. This is not a distraction, but a reality. The incremental withdrawal of American forces worldwide combined with a naïve belief that nations would rally to create global stabilization, has left foreign policy in tatters.
This is not yet the Hobbsian world of each against all in a struggle for survival, but what has been awakened from the depths of multilateral conceptions is the assertion of nationalistic interests, interests that do not converge or fall within the purview of the United Nations or The Hague Court on International Justice. Whether President Trump can meet this challenge remains to be seen, but the steps that have been taken are, in my judgment, the right ones.
One cannot possibly be accurate in predicting the future; but Trump is being tested and the tests have only just begun. Putin is setting traps throughout Europe and Xi is flexing his muscle in the South China Sea. All Trump can do is maintain a sangfroid attitude. Between the polarities of concessions and war lie many options. President Trump must choose wisely, but choose he must for history is not about to stand still.
Moreover, the first and overarching responsibility of the president is providing for national security. A paranoid Left may not recognize this role but most Americans do. The polls may not yet reflect a pro Trump constituency, but the more he asserts his will and reflects national interests, the more he will be embraced.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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