Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Requiem for Pax-Americana

Obama threatens world stability by taking a shotgun to the American nuclear umbrella.

Since World War II, nuclear non-proliferation has been largely predicated on an American promise to defend allied states in the event of such an attack. While never proven or even necessarily possible, plenty of countries (any with nuclear energy but no weapons program) decided to invest their money elsewhere. Certainly, the incredible price of acquiring a nuclear weapon was an important disincentive in the first place. America’s bomb, however, made the cost of bringing war to our allies and country prohibitive. Our posture prevented conventional war also, evidenced by China’s frustration with tiny Taiwan. Those times have ended.

Stalled negotiation attempts with Iran reveal that under our current leadership, the nuclear umbrella is little more than imaginary. China and Russia play their two-step repeatedly, while the United States dutifully responds by diluting sanctions further. Meanwhile, Iran gleefully announces its own nuclear summits, threatens Israel, and increases its capacity to produce weapons-grade fissile material. Merely turning a blind eye to proliferation is enough to perforate America’s defensive posture because it undermines the credibility of retaliation.

Although Israel may not qualify as a protected country under the American umbrella, the message to those who do is evident: the US will not stand with its most loyal ally against an existential threat. We refuse out of fear of attacks against soldiers that are targeted daily by the very same instigator, Iran. A closer ally could not exist; a worse excuse is hard to find. America appears willing to swing into action only after a bomb is dropped, if at all. Don’t expect many others to leap at the opportunity for similar protection.

Iran differs from historical aggressors like the USSR because of its stated intention to annihilate Israel and its ability to do so indirectly through proxies Hamas and Hezbollah. Through these channels, war is waged against Israeli troops and civilians with any weaponry it can smuggle. A real possibility exists for Iran to clandestinely arm a third party in a way that never existed when any nuclear bomb not ours was Soviet.

The nuclear umbrella is therefore exposed as a fallacy. As our other allies accept this reality, those in troubled regions will likely question their own security and adjust accordingly. Colombia, Japan, Taiwan and Eastern Europe, a few examples, will recognize their perilous dependence on a fickle America. An independent nuclear deterrent is then the singular logical step for states facing well-armed and historically hostile aggressors. If the shade provided by the United States’ nuclear arsenal was responsible for the prevention of proliferation, then its absence would logically promote it.

Relative peace over the past century, the pax-Americana, fostered unprecedented growth and development around the globe. Like the pax-Britannica and pax-Romana before, military might has been an essential factor. But it wouldn’t have lasted long without the brains to match. America extends its military dominance beyond the reach of its armed forces by promising to defend key nations at key times and according to our interests, all of which requires careful political maneuvering. Threatening potential aggressors minimizes the frequency with which our posture is tested, prolonging peace and sparing American lives. Our nuclear umbrella did just that.

If Iran proves our promises are empty, our military reach will retreat to its physical limits, and our ability to maintain global peace will all but disappear, much to America’s detriment. World War I and II had nothing to do with a 20th century, isolationist United States, but we were involved regardless.

Obama subscribes to a post-modern global perspective that faults America and our allies for today’s crisis instead of the obvious Islamist perpetrators. Minimizing America’s profile, he presumes, will protect our borders and promote prosperity. Back on Earth, this is nothing short of comprehensive nuclear weapons proliferation

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