An ancient proverb says, “When elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.”
By now you have seen the heart-wrenching video of a 5-year old Syrian child pulled from the rubble of a house destroyed during another indiscriminate bombing campaign over the city of Aleppo. No tears. No wailing. He sits there unflinching, caked in soot and a face half-covered in blood from a nasty gash atop his head.
It’s hard to stomach as a human. Nearly unwatchable as a father.
While many remain deeply divided over how America should respond to the growing number of atrocities, the same audience seethes at knowing this evil is up against a routinely unprepared and seemingly impotent U.S. administration. The greater concentration of power in the hands of those cold to human suffering may bring the world to a humanitarian tipping point.
The tyrannical cooperation between Iran and Russia, and now perhaps Turkey, is shaping up to Biblical proportions. The dictatorial instincts of those invested in this three-way marriage of convenience and their collective disregard for innocent life when it stands in the way of their insatiable thirst for power serves to affirm the United States as the last great hope for human flourishing. Warts and all, America still stands as the counterweight to the inevitable despotism that overwhelms the world in its absence.
Yet, this critical moment in international history elicits little more than a soundbite from the current administration while it passes from the fairway to the green. World leaders are now disinclined to consult the United States. Instead, they begrudgingly phone Putin, believing him to be the de-facto maestro of world events.
Russian warships carrying Kalibr cruise missiles are gathering in the Caspian and Mediterranean seas. Media outlets report 40,000 Russian troops, tanks and armored vehicles amassed along the Ukrainian border. The administration and NATO feel 4,000 troops to the Baltic States and Poland adequately serves as a “trip wire” against Russian aggression. A force that RAND analysts say would be overrun in 60 hours.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to assist Syria in its heartless war against dissidents. And Iran quite literally reconfigured runways and hangers so that Russia could relocate aircraft to a resident base. This marks the first time since Iran’s 1979 revolution that a foreign military has used the Islamic Republic to launch attacks elsewhere.
The U.S. government’s claim that the revelation took them by surprise leaves Americans to wonder if leadership honestly missed such a visible military maneuver or whether leaders are hiding the truth. There’s no other option. It all comes just as the White House admitted that the $400 million cash payment to Iran was essentially ransom. The habitual I-confess-because-you-caught-me routine is maddening.
The Turkish president’s snuggling up to Putin in the wake of his crackdown in Turkey could be perhaps the most frightening element of all. A NATO member pulls closer to the very country that inspired the organization’s creation. The same NATO ally cut power to U.S. airbases during the alleged coup without cause, leaving operations and facilities without adequate electrically for weeks; 1,500 U.S. airmen stationed at Incirlik Air Base remain quarantined.
At the time, all the administration could muster was a public pronouncement for the Turkish public to recognize Erdogan as their leader. Now the administration is allegedly moving tactical nuclear weapons stockpiled at Incirlik into Europe, presumably over fears of Erdogan’s next move with Russia. But again, the administration says things are under control.
To borrow from Michael Corleone, “Can’t you give me a straight answer anymore?!?”
The strategic alignment among three major powers who share a disdain for liberty and a disregard for human suffering creates a remarkable bloc of authoritarianism. The next president will hold one of the worst hands ever dealt an incoming administration. But a comprehensive and imaginative strategy that treats traditional areas non-traditionally would be a good first step.
For instance, help draw U.S. allies into an unprecedented alliance against the emerging group, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Also, begin to treat traditional criminal enterprises as national security concerns. The illicit market of goods, whether drugs, pirated movies or looted antiquities, funds everything from the Russian economy to terrorist organizations. Likewise, emphasize the use of financial strategists and analysts to follow the money.
View the cyber threat as one capable of physical injury rather than primarily data manipulation. Employ strategies that presume malicious codes contain physically destructive capabilities. Finally, return to a greater reliance on human intelligence. One co-opted person in the right place can literally change the course of world events.
This isn’t a call for war. It’s more like a prediction that America will eventually have to confront the emerging Cold World Order or succumb to its barbarism.