What are America’s Global Interests?

After their December 7 video call, President Biden said Putin got the message “loud and clear” that invading Ukraine (again) would incur a big price.

The actual message: the price would be tolerable.

Economic sanctions? Pah! Putin doesn’t give a turd about that. He’d care about a military bloody nose. But Biden made clear we won’t meet force with force.

Russia casts us as aggressors, pulling Ukraine from its ancient ties. Actually Russia was building a partnership with the West under Yeltsin, but Putin took it elsewhere; and bullied Ukraine into enmity instead of cultivating their historic affinity.

The seven decades after WWII saw a rules-based world order, with the most basic rule being no invasions. Major advanced nations no longer attacked each other. This was huge. Not only curbing war’s death and devastation, but promoting wealth-expanding world trade, driving global prosperity up and poverty down.

The architect and guarantor of this world order was America. Exemplified by treating Japan and Germany not as conquered domains, but building them up as our partners; the Marshall Plan to resuscitate Europe; and so much more. This was a new concept in world annals. And it reflected not just airy altruism, but self-interest, properly understood. Realizing we ourselves were primary beneficiaries, making a world better for us to live in.

Then it began to unravel. Perhaps starting when President Obama declared a red line regarding Syrian chemical weapons use, only to muff it. And in 2014 the system took a big hit when Russia got away with grabbing Crimea. Incurring economic sanctions that were, for Putin, mere annoyances.

Trump, ignorant of our true global interests, shredded them. Telling the world we could no longer be looked to, or trusted. Didn’t even understand what side we’re on. And whatever Biden does to patch things up, it’s clear there’s no longer a U.S. political consensus behind it, our global role now beholden to the whims of bloody-minded voters. Trump or his like could return. Congressional partisanship stymies our global engagement by blocking even many ambassadorial appointments. And Biden’s gestures are contradicted by the Afghanistan fiasco, making America look undependable.

The biggest looming test is Taiwan. Which China insists belongs to it. In fact, Taiwan is effectively an independent (and democratic) nation; and previously, except for 1945-49, was held by Japan, not China. Yet China asserts a right to seize Taiwan by force. And has been methodically assembling the means.

After Russia’s Crimea crime, it may be too late to get this genie back in the bottle. China’s raping Taiwan would be the death-blow for the post-WWII global order. Would America act to defend it? Militarily?

Our commitment to Taiwan was always left fuzzy — “strategic ambiguity” it’s been called. But Biden recently said we would indeed defend Taiwan. Yet China might not be deterred, skeptical that America today is up for such a battle. Taiwan means much more to China than (seemingly) to us. And it’s increasingly doubtful a Chinese invasion could be beaten.

In a recent gabfest, a friend (no dummy) said we’re tired of being the world’s hegemon — let some other country do it now. As if that might be one like Switzerland — not China! Other serious voices echo this. Words like “limits of power,” and “restraint” resonate. There’s a growing feeling that overseas engagement, like in Afghanistan, is doomed to futility. A creeping defeatist fatalism. One foreign policy maven on the PBS Newshour advocated resolving our “strategic ambiguity” regarding Taiwan by announcing we would not defend it. (An open invitation for China to invade.)

Few Americans seem to grasp the big picture of what’s at stake. The Economist has said that after the global order’s demise, “Americans themselves may be surprised to discover how much they benefited from it.” We won’t like living in a world built to China’s blueprint.

20 Responses to “What are America’s Global Interests?”

  1. Don Bronkema Says:

    Nano-prophet wagers big Jomala win; better margins in Congress + force-majeure adaptation post Manchinema.
    1. No further territorial advance by Vlad Vladich [2022-2036].
    2. Siberia: occupied by emaciated Sinos/Koreans [2040-2055].
    3. Permafrost: stabilized by orbisols [NASA grant] [2090-2100].
    4. Med littoral, ME, S. Asia, SE Asia: sterile shrubland [2027-2040].
    5. AMOCollapse [2025-2032], Europeans retreat to 3D shelter here.
    6. Mexico & Western/Southern US reloco north of the Ohio toward & into Ontario/Quebec. S. America/Africa depopulated maybe 70%.

  2. Lee Says:

    Your statement that Taiwan “was held by Japan, not China” needs some clarification. Wikipedia indicates that Taiwan was under the rule of the Chinese Qing dynasty, 1683–1895. It was then ceded to Japan at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War. In 1945, at the end of World War 2 Taiwan was given to China. China was in the midst of a civil war and a few years later there was a split; the PRC occupied the mainland and the ROC occupied Taiwan.

  3. Lee Says:

    We defeated Germany militarily in World War 1 and that kept them at bay until, uh oh, World War 2, where we defeated them again militarily. The pattern did not repeat with a World War 3 for the reasons that you state: we treated Japan and Germany not as conquered domains, but building them up as our partners; the Marshall Plan to resuscitate Europe; and so much more.

    With Putin or Xi, I don’t see military intervention as anything but a short-term strategy that will last until, uh oh, World War 3. Yes, we need to be working very hard for the people of Taiwan and Ukraine, but let’s focus on a way that will have lasting success.

  4. Don Bronkema Says:

    Korekt, but asoom yugree no change of status by force; 7th Fleet must ‘sail’ back & 4th along maritime meridian.

  5. David Lettau Says:

    Does China,- an aggressive militantly mercantilist state that the U.S. has accused of genocide against it’s Uyghur minority ( forced labor in so- called re – education camps, forced sterilization of women, etc)-have any legitimate territorial claims at all? Or is it a pariah state that enslaves it’s people? No one wants the sheer awfulness that a war with China over Taiwan would surely be. But isn’t their a greater evil than war—- acquiescence in human slavery, and the military conquest of free and Democratic nations by Tyranny’s like China? The twin crises in Ukraine and the Taiwan straits may be our generations Munich moment with Biden playing either the role of Neville Chamberlain or Churchill. Of course it should have never come to this.We should have been arming the Taiwanese for this eventuality for years. “ Si vis pacem, para bellum”

  6. Don Bronkema Says:

    Si vis pacem, nave septatum debet patrolat mare sinosa…

  7. Don Bronkema Says:


  8. David Lettau Says:

    Ut nos habet quieta tempora

  9. Don Bronkema Says:

    Solo tempora, we trust! Meanwhile, would you agree that our righteous defense of Uyghurs, Tibetans, the Haka & 34 other minorities must consider the risk of provocation? Seems to this nonagenarian that colloquy & unflinching 7th fleet patrols will suffice, unless the Chairman is not a Master of the Game. Sino prospects over the vigesimal 2022-2042 are grim in context of Himalayan melt & disrupted precip south of Hwang-ho/Yang-tse. Latest model is an alembic of ecogesis, featuring desertification & 125F wetbulbs, Morocco to New Guinea [fatalities: 1.2 – 2.0 BN]. Central Africa in grave peril. Europe frozen by AMOCollape. GOP ignores not just Piketty, but last eight Econ Nobelists [Shiller, Stieglitz, Arely-Kahnemann, Krugman, Thayler, Angrist, Imbens]. The future, if any, will be driven by hope, sacrifice & miracle tek. Stellae pendent.

  10. Lee Says:

    It is a bit worrisome to see

    Of course it should have never come to this. We should have been arming the Taiwanese for this eventuality for years.

    That was our strategy in Afghanistan and the troops we were arming for *decades* lasted only weeks. I don’t see the Afghanistan disaster as a 20-year ongoing failure of implementation; it is that the approach generally has lower odds of success than others.

    The threat of actual military intervention could prove to be the best short-term solution to keep disaster at bay, but for long-term success we need to build partnerships; not based upon appeasement but based upon common human values. There are many despite the rhetoric to the contrary.

  11. Don Bronkema Says:

    Govt elites divert cash to Deutsche-Bank, but imagine 600M village women each got 100 in krypto-bux. Ecce stellae!

  12. rationaloptimist Says:

    Lee: “common human values” — with the Chinese regime? Please live in the real world.

  13. Lee Says:

    Indeed, it was hard to connect with the people who elected the Nazis and Hitler; and it was difficult to connect with the people who fought for the Japanese emperor. I imagine that, at the time, much of the American public was quite skeptical about giving money to the German and Japanese people. In retrospect, it was a very good idea; a very good idea in the real world.

    Not all ventures go well in the real world. There’s Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan. We showed those regimes who’s boss and, nonetheless, they are still quite broken.

  14. David Lettau Says:

    A CHEERFUL RESPONSE= Lee,you seem to be a very moral person,and I always find your comments interesting. But I do not believe we can form a,”partnership based on common human values”, with a government that has given the world repeated demonstrations in horror (Tianemen square? Mao’s “Great leap forward” that in the 1960’s claimed an estimated 60 million victims?} I will become an enthusiastic advocate of finding common values with the authoritarian thugs who rule China when they free their people and start quoting Thomas Paine. Stopping their threats to sink our 7th fleet for merely sailing through the vast regions of the Pacific that China claims as its “ sphere of influence”, would be a nice start.Until then I view China’s leadership much the same way medieval Chinese peasants viewed their emperors- best viewed from a safe distance.{ I plant my vines,I dig my well,and the Emperor is far away.}

  15. Don Bronkema Says:

    Lee/David/Frank: the short-term attractions of ‘tentatifs militaires’ quickly dissolve in the alembic of history. One is tempted to pontificate at length re Sumeria-to-present, but some facts are self-evident: all regimes come-a-cropper for one reason or another. Entropy, randomicity & chaos rule. The form & function of an endogenous, perpetual kosmos can be studied, but not understood. Reality is can never be more or less than half-real, per quant. Indeed, Libet demos that mentation & volition are 20-khz sweeper-wave phantasms. Notw/standing the absurdity of choice, this proto-centenarian tries to think first, optimize & proceed w/caution in a spirit of tolerance & sacrifice. Good taste demands he [& we] exit w/grace: stare strate down the barrel w/a smirk as the trigger is pulled. Rebut ad voluntas.

  16. Lee Says:

    Xi, Trump, Modi, Netanyahu, etc. have supporters not because of the atrocities they cause but because they also represent some human values worthy of support. When we reach out, acknowledging those values and helping to accomplish improvements, we can win, often in one of two ways. These leaders either no longer believe that the atrocities are justified or, failing that, their supporters abandon these leaders because the supporters see that these atrocities are not justified.

    I am never arguing for appeasement or for ignoring atrocities. We are morally compelled to take action … but what action? Highlighting commonalities and offering a helping hand where there is agreement is often more effective than bombs and guns.

  17. Don Bronkema Says:

    Syntel game theory [STG] will make accommodation w/dictat easier. Neither Putin nor Kim is mad; they are functioning sikos, so we just proceed pari passu, never panicking. Would it have worked v-a-v Caligula, Ivan Grozny, Liz Bathory, Schickelgruber, Idi Amin, Hang Sen, Boukassa? Stalin & Mao, yes.

  18. David Lettau Says:

    Don- Yes we must weigh the risk of provocation when pointing out abuses of human rights.And in defending our Allies from aggression. Yet I realize that to the three criteria for just war of Aquinas ( in jus bello), we must add a fourth- does our enemy possess nukes? The usual madness and waste of nations warring will shortly be dwarfed by the collapse of eco- sphere. The mass extinction event brought on by the omnicidal heat engine we call human civilization is casting an even darker pall over our days than the gloom of imminent war. You seem to hold out some hope that man’s ingenuity might yet avert or reverse the climate crises. While I have never agreed with Camus that hope was the worst thing to come flying out of Pandora’s box, I find it hard to be sanguine, given the overwhelming evidence of what science is telling us about the climate crises. Are the hope’s of techno- fixes a species of Apocaloptimism? I hope not, else humans may become the first species on Earth to be abolished by it’s own intelligence.(Carl Sagan wrote that most life forms throughout the cosmo that evolved high intelligence probably destroyed themselves in their technological adolescence. That I suppose was his answer to Fermi’s paradox. The question for man is, can he avoid this common fate of life forms that evolve high tech?

  19. Don Bronkema Says:

    Bravo–tenure granted! Critics of Lobashevski, Gauss, Hilbert, Russell, Whitehead, Godel, Turing & von Neumann are thus dispatched–at least in politix! Our myopia is merely sub-infinite: Man can yet save himself for provolution. Must his neural format be CRISPRed? Certainly. Will all trace of him evaporate over galactic aeons? Guaranteed! Meanwhile, millions of lives will be lost as the planet reconfigures [2022-2122], but the soberest see briter skies, if Glasgow tentatifs are pursued & consolidated by 2032. Once we cross the threshold to green humanist technocracy [2100?], Kardashoff-I [control of the solar system] should proceed smoothly. Mars, of course, will declare its independence [my guess: 2175]. Tell the kids.

  20. What are America’s Global Interests? – Awaken Dreams Says:

    […] What are America’s Global Interests? […]

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