The post-World War II American-led world order is unraveling before our eyes. The American military is underfunded, the U.S. is dependent on foreign energy sources, allies like Israel are being betrayed, enemies like Iran are being empowered and anti-Western international bodies like the United Nations are being substituted for American power.
None of this is happening by accident. It is the result of a conscious effort by the progressive left to constrain American power, which they see as a malevolent force. Progressives believe that if only America were weaker and nicer, the world would be a safer place and our enemies would be kinder to us.
Not surprisingly, the opposite is true. When America retreats, the void is filled by bad actors. Today those actors are China, Russia and Iran.
The first sign of the unraveling was in April 2009, when former President Barack Obama was asked if he believed in American Exceptionalism, the bedrock principle of the American-led world order.
Obama responded, “I believe in American exceptionalism … just as the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism.”
In other words, Obama saw America as a country just like any other. It has no special role in the world. Thus, the American-led world order was not worth defending.
That was the moment when America’s enemies began to see that a new world order was possible, one dominated by totalitarian regimes in which America was reduced to a second-rate power.
Obama spent eight years advancing policies that only further convinced our enemies they could reorder the world.
Soon after removing Winston Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office, Obama bowed and scraped before despots in the Middle East. He went to France and told our NATO allies that America “has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” towards Europe.
In 2011, against the advice of his generals, he withdrew all American forces from Iraq. This created a power vacuum. ISIS filled it and America was forced to redeploy troops to fight and die again for territory we had won at great cost in blood and treasure.
In 2012, Obama failed to enforce his so-called “red line” in Syria. He cravenly sought the help of Vladimir Putin, making Russia a permanent fixture in a Middle East where it had little or no meaningful presence since 1973.
In 2014, an emboldened Putin was convinced he could invade Crimea without consequences. His assessment was correct. Not wanting to undermine his famous “reset” with Russia, Obama did nothing more than send blankets and sandwiches to Ukraine.
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA) was particularly destructive. The deal gave Iran a legal path to a nuclear weapon and a ballistic missile system with which to deliver it. It handed Iran hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which allowed the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism to underwrite its military, terrorist proxies and hegemonic goals in the region.
At its core, however, the JCPOA was a shift in American Middle East policy away from Israel and towards Iran, from America’s closest ally in the region to a regime that has been at war with the U.S. since 1979.
This may seem confusing. After all, Israel is a democracy that shares our values, while Iran is a totalitarian regime directly responsible for one-third of American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can only be explained when viewed through the lens of a progressive worldview in which America and the American-led world order are absolute evils.
In 2015, China moved to take advantage of Obama’s weakness, stepping up its efforts to build and militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea. It faced no consequences for this aggressive behavior and its efforts continue unabated.
Obama said that the 2016 Paris Climate Accords (PCA) represent one of his “greatest achievements.” But as then-Secretary of State John Kerry has admitted, the PCA was largely ineffective. Thus, it had little or nothing to do with climate change. Instead, was integral to the progressives’ effort to reorder the world.
Just look at what the JCA achieved. First, it subjected our national energy policy to the whims of an ineffectual international organization. Second, Obama used it as an excuse to impose more burdensome regulations on America’s energy sector as a first step towards government takeover of the American energy industry. Socialism was the goal and the PCA was the means.
It was not until the Biden administration that the seeds sown by Obama took root and bloomed. There are two critical differences between Obama and Biden, however. First, Biden is less competent than Obama. Second, China, Russia and Iran no longer act independently of one another. They are now an axis much like that of Germany, Japan and Italy in the 1930s. This has brought us to the precipice of war and the end of the American century.
Nothing could have caused more harm to American national security and the American-led world order than Biden’s catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan. It shattered whatever vestige of American Exceptionalism remained.
Biden ignored the objections of his generals and didn’t bother to consult our allies. We left Americans behind. We left Afghan allies behind. We left billions of dollars in military hardware behind. Biden inexplicably put the Taliban in charge of security at Karzai Airport, which led directly to the murder of 13 U.S. service members by terrorists.
Most catastrophically, the surrender convinced our allies and partners that they could not rely on us and our enemies that they need not fear us. Once the indispensable nation, we had made ourselves dispensable.
Because of the Afghan debacle, Russia felt emboldened to invade Ukraine. Iran took great joy in humiliating the Biden administration as it begged the ayatollah to reenter the JCPOA. China now threatens Taiwan and an invasion becomes more likely every day. Worst of all, these are coordinated actions designed to end the American-led world order.
Allies have lost confidence in us. The reconciliation agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, brokered by China, should be a wake-up call. From France in Europe to Brazil in South America to Egypt in the Middle East, former friends are hedging their bets and reaching out to China. The world is up for grabs and they want to be on the winning side.
There was a time when we could keep the peace merely by being feared. We have worked very hard to erode that advantage. Now war is more likely and the outcome less certain. This is what the progressive agenda has given us.
It does not have to be this way.
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan, with the support of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, sought to deploy Pershing missiles to Europe to counter the USSR’s nuclear advantage. Protesters in the United States and Europe denounced this and demanded unilateral disarmament.
The protesters believed that if America set an example by disarming, the Soviets would do the same. Reagan and Thatcher understood this was insane. The missiles were deployed and we now know from unsealed Soviet archives that this marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
Where have you gone, Ronald Reagan?
Eric R. Levine is a founding member of the New York City law firm Eiseman, Levine, Lehrhaupt & Kakoyiannis, P.C. He is an essayist, political commentator and fundraiser for Republican candidates with an emphasis on the United States Senate.