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Spengler

The Cost of America’s Abdication of Power

November 21st, 2013 - 3:07 pm

From my Oct. 20, 2009 essay, “When the cat’s away, the mice kill each other“:

The most dramatic response to Washington’s abdication of power may be Israel’s. The Jewish state’s window of opportunity to strike at what it claims is an Iranian nuclear weapons program will close before long, either because the Iranian program will grow past the point at which air strikes can stop it, or because Iran will acquire S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia sophisticated enough to prevent an Israeli attack.

A complex negotiation involving Russia and Israel is underway. Russia has the capacity to suspend or cancel its promised shipments of S-300 missiles to Iran, or to provide Israel with means to make the system ineffective. Russian nuclear scientists, meanwhile, reportedly are assisting Tehran’s weaponsprogram, and the Russian government has the capacity to neutralize this threat as well. The question is: what does Russia want from Israel in return for refraining from arming Iran?

The answer may lie in the world’s response to the virtual cancelation of the American F-22 program. Fewer than two hundred of the fifth-generation American stealth fighter are likely to be built, and the US will export none of them. America’s efforts are concentrated rather on the F-35, a cheaper, more versatile and less advanced aircraft. For the first time since World War II, America’s rule of the skies may be challenged by its failure to invest adequately in the next generation of American aircraft. Russia and India already have agreed on joint development of a fifth generation fighter aircraft based on existing Russian airframes. Russian quality control is notoriously poor and Russian avionics are backward. If Israel joined the consortium, the product might challenge the F-35 in the world market for military aviation.

Russia has only a few cards to play, but these cards are important: the proliferation of its anti-aircraft technology enhances its bargaining power. Were Israel to strike Iran during the next few weeks, it might do so not as a proxy for the US, but as part of a broader agreement with Russia. America may have missed the point of Russian policy. The entire issue of sanctions on Iran may seem like diplomatic idiocy to the Russians; the question, in Moscow’s judgment, may come down to a digital decision: either attack Iran, or don’t. Russia wants to benefit in either case, but it probably prefers to prevent an historic enemy on its southern border from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The United States may cast away its technological edge in air power without a second thought, but Russia understands that superpower status today depends more on military technology than any other factor. No one can control the failed states and soon-to-be-failed states of the region; one can only contain them. The fact that America can sail an aircraft carrier up to the coast of any country in the world without fear of attack and without significant opposition gives America a decisive edge in containment. That, I believe, is what Russia wants to diminish. Think of it as a chess move: sacrifice a few pieces, eg Iran, in order to get at the king. None of these terrible things would be happening if only Vladimir Putin were president of the United States, as I proposed last year. (See Putin for US president – more than ever Asia Times Online, August 13, 2008.)

The most important thing that has changed since 2009 is that American carriers no longer are invulnerable; China can sink them within 200 miles of its coast by saturating their defenses with shore-to-ship missiles. The other thing that has changed is that China has become a player in the Middle East. The present equation has too many unknowns: what is the discussion between Russia and China, between Saudi Arabia and Israel, between France and all the parties? With the US in a tailspin Middle East diplomacy looks like speed dating. We Americans will find out what is happening when someone else decides to tell us — maybe never. The contempt with which the United States is viewed in Asia is remarkable. No-one even asks about the political news from Washington. The world has moved on. Thanks to the Bush Administration’s Quixotic stupidity and the Obama Administration’s sabotage of American interests, we have become bystanders. If I read another “America-can’t-afford-to-abandon-the-Middle-East” hand-wringer from the folks who promoted the Bush Freedom Agenda, I’ll throw up.

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Top Rated Comments   
The new voting-majority-demographic in America of the un-educated and the ill-educated certainly aren't listening. Those who voted the likes of the busy-busy Obama claque into office - twice - couldn't care less about our technological edge in air power.

They're vindictively "stickin' it to th' man.....meaning sticking it to all previously rational authority.

We're witnessing the politically correct but noxious winds of affirmatively actioning the likes of this multicultural creation named Barack Hussein Obama. He's the symbol of popular rebellion against the "establishment".

The whole foundation of what used to be our America founded upon the sturdy shoulders of hard working and law abiding "straight" [...genderisms don't apply here] folks is no more.

It's gone.


51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
American spinelessness emboldens America's enemies, increasing the liklihood of war and the death of thousands of American kids in the branches of the military.
Weakness—even the perception of weakness—invites war.
Any historian knows this, as does any bully.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's nothing wrong with being a "bystander". Given the inconsistency of US policy, it's more than high time for Israel and other allies to put their interests first and stop relying on the US. Being he world's nanny is what helped us get a government intent on being ours.

No matter how much we may object, the demographics of this country have been changed. A country that elects a narcissist (twice) who gives the figurehead of our oldest, allie a $100 ipod full of his speeches simply can not be relied upon. And there is no going back.

It's time to take care of our own interests, those shore to ship Chinese missiles can't sink carriers protecting our coasts.

The adversary to our way of life is no longer communism and Russia, it's islam, yet we backed the muslimes in Yugoslavia while the Russians backed the Serbs who fought them. Now, today, the Russians are putting a halt to building new masques in Moscow.

Instead of pointing fingers at Putin and wringing our hands, we need to take some lessons.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (29)
All Comments   (29)
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The Russians have had serious problems with Islamist fanatics. They must know that a nuclear-armed Iran throwing its weight around would make the situation much worse. But selling technology to Iran brings in lots of money and gives the Russians more leverage in negotiations with the West. So how can they enjoy the benefits of this arrangement without suffering painful consequences?

Step 1, sell Iran everything it needs to develop nuclear weapons. Ignore any sabotage attempts by Israel or the West because they will only force the Iranians to buy even more equipment. Step 2, sell Israel all the information it needs to destroy the Iranian weapons program in exchange for intelligence or technology (e.g. advanced avionics). Ensure that any missiles that might prevent the airstrikes are not delivered until it's just too late to deploy them in time. Step 3, sell the Iranians another load of hugely expensive equipment to start their program again and rebuild their air defences. Rinse and repeat until the suckers run out of money.

Of course, the Iranians might well suspect that the Russians had betrayed them. But "suspect" is not the same as "be able to prove", and proof is not much use if there isn't any alternative supplier available that would be any more reliable. I suggest that the Russian strategy is to make money and increase their power in the Middle East by positioning Russia as a key supplier to both sides in the Israeli-Iranian conflict. It's diplomacy through war-profiteering.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bush failed to stop nuclear programs in N. Korea and Iran ... a failure for the ages. But primary blame belongs to Obama and his cohorts who undermined and slandered the US effort in Iraq and then went on to appease Iran.

Iraq was not a bad opening move post-9-11 to begin to defang Radical Islam. It even exposed Khan's proliferation network, ended the Libyan nuclear program and intimidated the Iranians suffcienty to suspend their program.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
OT: Here is Reagan's take on who killed the Kennedys. Interesting read. New stuff I didn't know about the 1967 six day war.
http://townhall.com/columnists/paulkengor/2013/11/23/who-killed-the-kennedys-ronald-reagans-answer-n1751540?utm_source=thdaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nl
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
THE ONLY THING RUSSIA IS AFRAID OF IS MUSLIM TERRORISTS
Iran doesn't unleash Islamist terrorists against Russia because it relies on Russian weapons and nuclear scientists. OTOH, Russia relies on Iran's purchasing power. It's hard to think of anything that could break apart this relationship -- unless the regime in Iran were completely decapitated AND another country was able to replace Iran's purchases. Hmmmm


After oil, Russia's economy is boosted by the sale of weapons. The only way for Israel to get Russia on its side is to buy more 'stuff' from Russia than Iran does. Even then
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"America’s rule of the skies may be challenged by its failure to invest adequately in the next generation of American aircraft."

"The United States may cast away its technological edge in air power without a second thought,"

"and the Obama Administration’s sabotage of American interests, we have become bystanders."

Elections have consequences. Are you listening America?



51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Roughly 51% isn't and won't. That number of Obama voters will only grow after the amnesty so matters will only be worse.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The new voting-majority-demographic in America of the un-educated and the ill-educated certainly aren't listening. Those who voted the likes of the busy-busy Obama claque into office - twice - couldn't care less about our technological edge in air power.

They're vindictively "stickin' it to th' man.....meaning sticking it to all previously rational authority.

We're witnessing the politically correct but noxious winds of affirmatively actioning the likes of this multicultural creation named Barack Hussein Obama. He's the symbol of popular rebellion against the "establishment".

The whole foundation of what used to be our America founded upon the sturdy shoulders of hard working and law abiding "straight" [...genderisms don't apply here] folks is no more.

It's gone.


51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Compassionate Conservative was last seen kissing the ring of that bilious, bulbous gigantic bag of hot air from New Jersey. Not only does the Compassionate Conservative display quixotic stupidity, he engages in plain, old-fashion stupidity as well.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
American spinelessness emboldens America's enemies, increasing the liklihood of war and the death of thousands of American kids in the branches of the military.
Weakness—even the perception of weakness—invites war.
Any historian knows this, as does any bully.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're right. American weakness and strict isolationism has drawn the US into war several times over the last century. Certain attempts to fight on the cheap have hurt us badly, like arming and training the Taliban (and Al Qaeda) during the Russian Afghan War and Somalia. The US military is now almost as small as it was prior to WWII and the troops and equipment are worn out while the military budget is being strangled such that troops can no longer train. On top of that, they are being relentlessly hammered with Political Correctness Indoctrination and harassment which is certainly driving many out.

As before the ambitious have taken note and they note the feckless wimp in the White House. It is indeed entirely possible that wars could break out that will clobber us economically and we could do nothing about it. War in the Middle East would cause fuel prices to skyrocket which would crush what's left of the economy, though surely this regime salivates at the thought of how much power they could grab if that happened. If not for that, it would be amusing to let the Chinese and Russians have the Middle East and all the troubles that go with it.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Your premise is, quiet frankly, WRONG. As is the assumption that those of us who don't want to spend blood and dollars "leading the world" in any way favor military weakness.

The Japanese didn't attack us because we were "weak" quiet the opposite, they attacked us because we were the strongest naval power in the Pacific and had taken a belligerent posture towards them vis a vie denying the sale of oil and steal to them. They knew they had to take us out to fulfill their plan, had we been "weak" per your argument they could have simply ignored us.

The Germans didn't attack us at all, we attacked them, repeatedly, in international waters.

And guess what? In neither case was it "isolationists" who got us into shooting wars, just like with WW1 is was "Progressive" interventionists, like the author here.

Schools indoctrinate pupils, always have, always will, today they indoctrinate one way, your post and PacRim Jim's above exemplify the way the schools used to indoctrinate.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's nothing wrong with being a "bystander". Given the inconsistency of US policy, it's more than high time for Israel and other allies to put their interests first and stop relying on the US. Being he world's nanny is what helped us get a government intent on being ours.

No matter how much we may object, the demographics of this country have been changed. A country that elects a narcissist (twice) who gives the figurehead of our oldest, allie a $100 ipod full of his speeches simply can not be relied upon. And there is no going back.

It's time to take care of our own interests, those shore to ship Chinese missiles can't sink carriers protecting our coasts.

The adversary to our way of life is no longer communism and Russia, it's islam, yet we backed the muslimes in Yugoslavia while the Russians backed the Serbs who fought them. Now, today, the Russians are putting a halt to building new masques in Moscow.

Instead of pointing fingers at Putin and wringing our hands, we need to take some lessons.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks to the Bush administration’s Quixotic stupidity and the Obama administration’s sabotage of American interests, we have become bystanders.

This, becoming bystanders, is called ... ... improvement.

When in a hole, first stop digging. - Murphy
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
David, perhaps you can shine light on this situation.

You mention ties between the Kremlin and the current Iranian regime; given the light shining on the inhumanity attributable to those who emblem is the crescent moon (I refer to http://twitter.com/MidnightWatcher and http://www.facingislam.blogspot.com) - surely the Kremlin has more on the ball than to jeopardize the long term via the short term.

For, I get it that the deal between Putin and the Oligarchs is that he will not interfere with they making money, as long as they don't interfere with how he governs. But, surely, they can't be that venal to allow such perpetuation of inhumanity. Can they?

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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