Cliff May

In addition: Cancel the 2010 New START arms-control treaty which was a great deal for Putin (no cuts of deployed warheads or strategic launchers), and a bad bargain for the U.S. (we have reduced our arsenal). And as former Sen. Jon Kyl and other leading defense experts have long urged, take steps to extend the life of America's aging ballistic nuclear warheads. Obama said he would do that. He has not.

Get energetic: Two years ago, President Obama promised “an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” That pledge, too, he has done next to nothing to fulfill.

Energy abundance and diversity should be our goal. That means more fracking. That means tapping petroleum on federal lands. That means ending the ban on “flexible fuel” vehicles capable of running on a variety of liquid fuels. That means eliminating bureaucratic barriers to entrepreneurship and competition -- with investors, not politicians, attempting to pick winners. That means eliminating environmental rules that impose more costs than benefits.

A byproduct of such policies: They would create jobs and reduce poverty – because the poor spend a larger percentage of their income on energy (electricity, gasoline, heating and cooling their homes) than do their wealthier neighbors. Cheaper energy also would stimulate economic growth. And a bigger American economy means a more powerful America.

G8 Minus 1: The Group of Six was founded in 1975 as a forum of the world’s leading industrialized democracies. When Canada joined the following year, it became the G7. Russia was added to the club in 1998 despite the fact that it was not then -- and is not now -- an industrialized democracy. On the contrary, Russia is an autocracy and relatively underdeveloped, with per capita wealth about a third that of South Korea. What riches it possesses have not been created through invention, innovation and productivity but through the exploitation of natural resources controlled by oligarchs.

Let’s return to G7 and, over time, transform it into an association of free market, liberal democracies -- an alternative to the United Nations, a broken institution beyond any hope of repair.

Si vis pacem, para bellum: That’s Latin for "If you want peace, prepare for war,” a doctrine dating back to Plato. President Obama does not subscribe to it. Instead, he assures us that the “tide of war is receding.” But Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, continues to spin centrifuges. Al Qaeda forces are fighting in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and North Africa. China is throwing around its growing military weight – including a 12% increase in military spending for 2014. And, again, Putin’s troops have seized Crimea, six years after having taken two big bites out of Georgia.

You don’t have to be Clausewitz to see that this is the wrong moment for the United States to take another “peace dividend,” to shrink the military, reduce capabilities and readiness.

The list above is by no means exhaustive. The point is to adopt policies that will make the United States stronger -- economically, militarily and by extension diplomatically. Nothing is more likely to cause Putin to regret his actions and think hard before repeating them elsewhere. Nothing would send a clearer message to Iran, China and other aspiring empire-builders.

“You don’t just in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion,” Secretary of State John Kerry said the other day. That’s true in the sense that top hats and petticoats are no longer stylish. Despotism, however, seems to be making a comeback. In consequence, the United States has 21st century responsibilities. If we’re unwilling or unable to shoulder them, no one else will.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.