We have more enemies than we need and currently all of them are feeling pretty froggy. We have lost the war in Afghanistan to a cult of medieval obscurantists. We have lost the peace in Iraq to a collection of the same and the usual suspects in the Middle East power struggle. We have lost the Arab Spring to Arab Islamists. We have lost the war against slavery to Boko Haram barbarians. We have lost influence in eastern Europe to its former overlords in Moscow. And we have lost dominance of the high seas to everyone from Somali pirates to the Chinese Navy.
Right now there is open battle in Ukraine over the Donetsk airport.
Donetsk, Ukraine (CNN) -- A battle between pro-Russia separatists and government forces at Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine has claimed 40 lives, authorities said Tuesday, in what is the deadliest outbreak of violence yet in the flashpoint city.
To be accurate that should say Russian troops in civilian clothes and pro-Russian separatists. Somehow Putin doesn't seem to be feeling the power of hashtag diplomacy. And our good friends and debt holders the Chinese are actually sinking civilian boats as they point out to all of their neighbors where the real power lies.
Vietnam and China traded barbs over the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat, their most serious bilateral standoff since 2007 as China asserts its claims in the disputedSouth China Sea.
There are many reasons why the US is no longer much of a deterrent to bad actors around the planet. Times change, economies rise and fall, politics and war-weariness make further actions less likely. But there is another more personality-driven one; American foreign policy gets defined by its President.
And let me be perfectly clear, no one around the globe is particularly worried about the wrath of Barack Obama. Let's clear the deck of his one shining example of "badassery", yes he had the SEALs shoot bin Laden in the eye. Other than that, the characteristic of US foreign policy has been kowtowing (literally) to tyrants and leading from behind. The results are obvious and dangerous. Bad guys feel free to be bad and friends, allies and innocents the world over are getting voicemail when they ring the red phone at the White House.
This is not a call for US interventions anywhere ugliness occurs. That has never been a good idea or even possible. But it is a call for a legitimate deterrent capability and the resolution to deliver it if necessary. And this must be tied to a diplomatic stance that presents that velvet glove, but makes sure the iron fist inside is well known. We don't want to fight wars, we want to present a credible front to enable negotiations from a position of strength. Are there any good books about how weakness and appeasement carried the day and saved us all from the forces of evil? No, there are not.
It is a simple fact enshrined in any number of after school movies about bullies. They don't respond to sweetness and light, nor become filled with the milk of human kindness when those they are abusing cringe and beg for mercy. They strike. They take advantage. They brutalize. They stop when someone stands up to them and bloodies their nose. Then they, and the rest of the thugs, start looking over their shoulders worried about when the next whack is coming instead of where the next victim is.
I have long thought it would be useful for the President to add a bit to the State of the Union where he brings out the Wheel of Tyrants and gives it a spin. When it stops on some deserving malefactor, he pushes a red button and we all watch the live footage of cruise missiles making some rubble. Which we all know doesn't make trouble. Not a full fledged foreign policy, but at least a step in the right direction. The alternative is to watch the rise of the Russian-Chinese alliance, Islamist terrorism and the continuing spread of oppression. I vote for deterrence and strength, and I will vote for it this Fall and in 2016.