We live in a dangerous world, and America needs serious leaders, not a chaotic clown show ⋆

We received a tragic and sobering wake-up call this weekend that the world indeed remains a very dangerous place; peace and security are never guaranteed; and forces of violence, war, and terrorism will continue to target stability around the globe.

As Robert Gates, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, wrote in Foreign Affairs recently, “The United States now confronts graver threats to its security than it has in decades, perhaps ever. Never before has it faced four allied antagonists at the same time — Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran — whose collective nuclear arsenal could within a few years be nearly double the size of its own.”

The terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israel Saturday, including the kidnapping and slaughtering of civilians, have ignited a new war in the Middle East directly in the heart of one of the most sensitive geographical flashpoints in the world. This happened right after Republican dysfunction and infighting in the U.S. House of Representatives left America without a Speaker of the House last week and without the ability of U.S. Congress to fully function during this crisis moment.

A temper tantrum from one Republican U.S. Senator is blocking promotions and nominees for more than 300 Pentagon positions, while a group of Republicans in the U.S. Senate has also blocked more than three dozen top U.S. State Department nominees.

These Republican blocks have left America currently operating without confirmed Joint Chiefs of Staff for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, without a deputy commander in charge of all U.S. military operations in the Middle East, without a commander of the Navy’s 5th Fleet that’s responsible for all naval and combined maritime forces in the Middle East, and without confirmed U.S. Ambassadors to Israel or Egypt, two of the most critical diplomatic positions in this moment.

If Alabama U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville continues his partisan theatrics, the Pentagon estimates that about three-quarters of the generals and admirals in the U.S. Defense Department — 650 of 852 — will be affected by his hold by the end of this year. Tuberville says the Israel war has not influenced his position and he intend to keeps his hold ongoing.

As Gates put it, “The problem… is that at the very moment that events demand a strong and coherent response from the United States, the country cannot provide one.”

Meanwhile, the frontrunner to be the Republican Party nominee for president in 2024 has a blueprint ready to gut independent leadership in the U.S. Military, Department of Defense, State Department, Justice Department and intelligence agencies, and to install Trump regime loyalists in their place.

China and Russia

Gates wrote that both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are “convinced that his personal destiny is to restore the glory days of his country’s imperial past. For Xi, this means reclaiming imperial China’s once dominant role in Asia while harboring even greater ambitions for global influence. For Putin, it means pursuing an awkward mixture of reviving the Russian Empire and recapturing the deference that was accorded the Soviet Union.”

Both leaders are “convinced that the developed democracies — above all, the United States — are past their prime and have entered an irreversible decline. This decline, they believe, is evident in these democracies’ growing isolationism, political polarization, and domestic disarray.”

Xi is looking to make China the dominant world power by 2049, the centenary of the Communists’ victory in the Chinese Civil War, Gates wrote, adding that this objective includes bringing Taiwan back under the control of Beijing.

Regarding Putin, Gates wrote that his attempt to revive the Russian empire by capturing Ukraine has backfired, and instead of dividing and weakening NATO, “Russia’s actions have given the alliance new purpose (and, in Finland and, soon, Sweden, powerful new members).”

“With his hopes for a quick conquest of Ukraine dashed, he appears to be counting on a rough military stalemate to exhaust the Ukrainians, betting that by next spring or summer, the public in Europe and the United States will tire of sustaining them.”

Both Russia and China have been busy in recent years, he said, securing economic and security agreements with countries south of the equator in Asia, Africa, and South America, to the loss of the U.S. and other Western democracies.

“Taken together, Xi’s and Putin’s convictions portend a dangerous period ahead for the United States,” Gates wrote. “The problem is not merely China’s and Russia’s military strength and aggressiveness. It is also that both leaders have already made major miscalculations at home and abroad and seem likely to make even bigger ones in the future. Their decisions could well lead to catastrophic consequences for themselves — and for the United States.”

President of Russia and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Vladimir Putin makes a speech in Red Square during a Victory Day military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II, on June 24, 2020 in Moscow, Russia | Sergey Guneev – Host Photo Agency via Getty Images

Hamas attack on Israel

With regard to the Hamas attack on Israel, Foreign Affairs interviewed Council on Foreign Relations Distinguished Fellow in U.S.-Middle East Diplomacy Martin Indyk, who twice served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

Indyk explained his perspective that the Hamas attack was intended to undermine steps toward normalization of relations between Israel and surrounding Arab countries:

“The Arab world is coming to terms with Israel. Saudi Arabia is talking about normalizing relations with Israel. As part of that potential deal, the United States is pressing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinian Authority — Hamas’s enemy. So this was an opportunity for Hamas and its Iranian backers to disrupt the whole process, which I think in retrospect was deeply threatening to both of them. I don’t think that Hamas follows dictation from Iran, but I do think they act in coordination, and they had a common interest in disrupting the progress that was underway and that was gaining a lot of support among Arab populations. The idea was to embarrass those Arab leaders who have made peace with Israel, or who might do so, and to prove that Hamas and Iran are the ones who are able to inflict military defeat on Israel.”

Israel now has two options, according to Indyk: Bombard Hamas in Gaza from the air to try to decapitate their leadership and force them to agree to a cease-fire, or launch a full-scale Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.

“Now that presents two problems. One is that Israel would be fighting in densely populated areas, and the international outcry against civilian casualties that Israel would inflict with its high-tech American weapons would shift condemnation onto the United States and Israel, and put pressure on Israel to stop. The second problem is, if Israel succeeds in a full-scale war, they then own Gaza, and they have to answer the questions: How are we going to get out? When do we withdraw? Whom do we withdraw in favor of? Remember, the Israelis already withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and they do not want to go back in.”

In a nutshell, Hamas is attempting to undermine agreements between Israel and other Arab nations, and to provoke Israel into a military overreaction that will rally the Arab world to Hamas’ side and entrench Israel in a Gaza quagmire.

Israel already faces intense criticism for its settlements in the West Bank, the blockade its had on Gaza with Egypt since Hamas took control over Gaza in 2007, and the resulting terrible living conditions and humanitarian crisis for Palestinians inside Gaza. This moment now is as fraught as it gets, and that’s intentional.

Hamas, Russia, Iran, Ukraine

While we do not yet have specific intelligence about Hamas coordination with Iran, we do know that Hamas leaders met with senior officials in Russia as recently as March. Following the Saturday attacks, Russia’s most prominent official after Vladimir Putin, former Russian president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, said that the attacks were “expected,” that the U.S. should stop caring about Ukraine and focus on Israel, and that America should have a civil war.

Right on cue, Missouri Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley posted on X, “Israel is facing existential threat. Any funding for Ukraine should be redirected to Israel immediately.”

This is exactly what Russia wants and what Medvedev called for: The U.S. to focus on Israel and abandon Ukraine. So at best, Hawley is a useful idiot playing right into Russia’s hands.

What would the U.S. abandoning Ukraine as Russia desires mean, according to Gates?

“It is naive to believe that Russian success in Ukraine will not lead to further Russian aggression in Europe and possibly even a war between NATO and Russia. And it is equally naive to believe that Russian success in Ukraine will not significantly increase the likelihood of Chinese aggression against Taiwan and thus potentially a war between the United States and China.”

If Gates is right, then Ohio Republican U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance — one of our nation’s most outspoken critics of the U.S. doing anything to help Ukraine — could not be more naive.

“Nothing in a nation’s life is costlier than war, nor does anything else represent a greater threat to its security and prosperity,” Gates wrote. “And nothing makes war likelier than putting one’s head in the sand and pretending that the United States is not affected by events elsewhere.”

Americans can not afford to put our heads in the sand. We can not pretend that our fortunes are not inextricably tied to the peace and security of the world, or that there are not very serious and malevolent agents of authoritarianism, theocratic autocracy, and terrorism who would love nothing more than bring about the downfall of America and Western democracy.

America needs serious leaders who understand the stakes and behave like reasonable, responsible adults, not a petulant clown car of chaos and dysfunction cosplaying as “real Americans” while relentlessly setting about to destroy our constitution, our rule of law, our institutional norms, our democratic and civil rights, our peaceful transitions of power, our functions of government, and our reputation and influence around the world.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: [email protected]. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

Ukraine Ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, responds as US President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol on March 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. During his first State of the Union address, Biden spoke on his administration’s efforts to lead a global response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, work to curb inflation, and bring the country out of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images)

authored by David C. DeWitt
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