On this seventh year anniversary, it is important to see how we are winning. Small actors like al Qaeda control short-term situations, so they were able to cause a non-trivial amount of daamage to our economy, and set the board for us invading two Muslim countries. States, though, control long-term situations. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda is now simply a small faction inside a much larger civil war that is ultimately for the Afghanis and Pakistanis to figure out. We can continue to do the right thing, such as supporting those who want to open Pakistan’s economy to the outside world, and those who oppose al Qaeda specifically, but for now things are trending remarkably well. Even more in Iraq, into which both US and al Qaeda forces surged following our overthrow of Saddam Hussein, we have destroyed al Qaeda’s ability to fight and taken to the work of setting up a post-war government that can befriend its neighbors, accept international investment, and get on with the work of being a country.
9/11 no longer defines United States foreign policy. Chappen, apart from the hard work of hanging the political culture of the middle east does not look like it’s going to happen apart from the slow transformation of economies, perhaps as a result of their Oil windfall. al Qaeda is a shadow of its former self, the staunchly anti-American Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is dead (along with much of his family), and the staunchly anti-American Iraqi leader Colonel Gaddafi sold out for some help in digging up oil.
Instead, America’s grand strategy now seems to hinge on rolling back Russia and preventing the emergence of interstate war as a tool of diplomacy. Part of this involves allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons, as most recently highlighted by our preventing Israeli from attacking Iran and selling defensive weaponry to the Gulf states. It means encouraging our allies in Europe in completing the Ukraine-EU Association Accord, and accelerating Russia’s financial crisis. It means making it more difficult for Russians to invest in the west, and easier for Western governments to seize Russian assets. Other tools will be used when they are needed, as well.
The world after 8/8/08 is less emotional than the world after 9/11. Humans just hate to die in random catastrophic terror, and the perceived risk of that in our slow fight against Russia is much lower than in our war against al Qaeda.
Russia’s economy makes it a warlike version of Portugal. Russia’s nuclear weaponry makes it a warlike version of North Korea. Russia’s oil makes her a warlike version of Venezuela. Russia’s demographic collapse makes it a warlike version of Italy.
Russia’s international friendships make it part of the feared Russian-Nicaraguan Axis.
(You better watch out, or Belarus could join too.)
Our challenge now is easier than our challenge then. The fight against Russia is not a new Cold War, but merely a fight against the “lesser includeds” — the remainder from our hard work. Whether Russia was ever really in the New Core, it fell off the wagon. Russia is a problem to be dealt it, as is her use of War. But we’ve won much harder challenges. We will do well this time, too.
Another 9/11 rolls past. al Qaeda continues to melt under assaults from all sides. Our teachable moment with Russia is at hand.
Globalization rolls on.