The Obama administration, which seems to have the idea that the U.S. should walk softly and carry a tiny stick, keeps getting those "unexpected" surprises from around the world.
Russia makes a move on Crimea? Surprise!
Russia makes a move on Ukraine? Surprise!
Russia threatens the Baltic states? Surprise!
China makes moves to claim the South China Sea as its "home waters?" Surprise!
North Korea acts crazy? Surprise!
People leave the completely FUBAR'd Middle East in droves? Surprise!
Waving potential immigration amnesty in front of people living in poverty in Central and South America causes a rise in "undocumented" migrants? Surprise!
Russia makes moves in the Arctic? Surprise!
Leaders of nations around the world, stunned by the weakness of the U.S. begin to panic a little? Surprise!
There's chaos in Libya after "liberation" without a follow-on plan? Surprise!
The Junior Varsity ISIS team fails to fall to air power alone? Surprise!
ISIS is spreading into more of Africa? Surprise!
There are ISIS converts in the U.S.? Surprise!
I could go on, but why bother?
Many of us have seen corporations go through a time of "surprise, surprise, surprise" when they have lost their "strategic vision." Yeah, yeah, business buzzword but, as I learned as a ship's navigator many years ago, when mapping a course, is good to know where you are headed.
In Navy navigation, you get orders from above - "Chart a course to Fiji." Somewhere up the food chain there is someone with a plan - a vision - of why my ship is to sail to Fiji and above them is someone who has a vision of how that trip to Fiji will help fulfill the national strategic vision.
In business, you develop a business plan based on the leadership's vision of what your company is all about. It is future oriented. It is what the business team - employees and management - rally around.
What is the U.S. "strategic vision?"
A couple of years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski questioned whether we have one in his book, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power. As set on in a NYTimes book review:
Mr. Brzezinski notes that President Obama has “failed to speak directly to the American people about America’s changing role in the world, its implications, and its demands,” ...Surprise, surprise, surprise.
Also missing from this book are any substantive discussions of how the United States might overcome “its staggering domestic challenges and reorient its drifting foreign policy” and how the current European debt crisis might affect the United States and the future fortunes of the West.
What Mr. Brzezinski does do here — lucidly, and for the most part with great persuasiveness — is explore the consequences that a steady slide by America into impotence and irrelevance might have on the rest of the world. Such a development, he argues, would probably not result in the “ ‘coronation’ of an effective global successor” like China, but would likely lead to a “protracted phase of rather inconclusive and somewhat chaotic realignments of both global and regional power, with no grand winners and many more losers.”
An America “in serious decline for domestic and/or external reasons,” he says, would lead to a breakdown in the ability of the international system to prevent conflict once it became evident that “America is unwilling or unable to protect states it once considered, for national interest and/ or doctrinal reasons, worthy of its engagement.” As he sees it, a more Darwinian world of tumbling dominoes would most likely result: there would be little to prohibit regional powers (like Russia) from exerting claims on neighbors falling within traditional or claimed spheres of influence (like Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine). Taiwan would become increasingly vulnerable, and so too would Israel.
In 2013, the President said the following in his second inaugural address:
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully –- not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.Compare that to President Kennedy's first inaugural address where he laid out this vision:
America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice –- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.One is a vision and a promise.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
The other? A way to slide into "impotence and irrelevance?"