The latest manifestation of President Obama’s serial national security fraud is on display at the moment in East Asia. For much of his presidency, Mr. Obama has contended that the defense budget could be dramatically reduced because, henceforth, the United States would only need sufficient military capability to fight one war at a time.
Predictably, the sorts of geostrategic realities that have argued historically for a two-war capability are intruding on the president’s dangerously false representations. The concept is simple: By having the ability to fight and decisively win two nearly simultaneous conflicts in different parts of the world, you discourage any potential adversaries from thinking they can act with impunity once the United States has become engaged in one distant war.
Ronald Reagan called this sort of posture “peace through strength.”
Now, however, we confront a Middle East that is becoming more explosive by the day. That is a result, in part, of Mr. Obama’s earlier acts of malfeasance and fraud, including his woefully deficient nuclear deal with Iran — which is only beginning to reverberate throughout the region — and the destabilizing dynamics engendered by the ongoing Islamist uprising he has supported from Tunisia to Bahrain.
Meanwhile, China is acting with increasing aggression toward its neighbors in the Western Pacific, most of whom have relied for decades on the sort of American protection that — thanks to the Obama military-wrecking operation — is no longer assured. Beijing has obviously concluded that the United States has neither the muscle nor the will to interfere with Chinese bullying of our allies. It may, by design or by miscalculation, precipitate actual hostilities with Japan over the contested Senkaku Islands controlled by the latter.
China’s latest lurch in that direction occurred last week when it declared an Air Defense Identification Zone covering those islands. The Obama administration has sent mixed signals in response, defiantly flying without the required advance notice unarmed B-52 bombers and other aircraft into the new zone. Yet, its Federal Aviation Administration has directed U.S. commercial carriers to conform to Chinese requirements for filing flight plans. The latter guidance has understandably infuriated the Japanese, who asserted their sovereignty by telling Japan’s airlines not to file such plans with Beijing, and who see in the American move yet another indication of our unreliability.
Those concerns are likely to be heightened, not allayed, by Mr. Obama’s dispatch of Vice President Joe Biden for consultations in Tokyo and Seoul and meetings with China’s president, Xi Jinping. For one thing, Mr. Biden’s interlocutors are sure to have noticed that he is regarded with derision by his own countrymen. It seems unlikely that reflexively xenophobic Chinese will respect him more. For another, the message he seems likely to convey to China’s new leader — with whom the vice president has spent considerable time in previous home-and-home visits — is one of accommodation, not resolve.
Even if Mr. Biden could find it in himself to demand that China rescind its Air Defense Identification Zone declaration and, while he’s at it, insist that his communist hosts renounce their outrageous claims to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea and East China Sea, the message would be as incredible as the messenger. In the absence of the actual capacity to project American power in East Asia, China will seek to fill the vacuum created by Mr. Obama’s “fundamental transformation” of the United States from the dominant force in that region to a middling, unreliable and wasting one.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has long warned that “weakness is provocative.” Consequently, we are sure to confront not just further encroachment by China on the territory and natural resources of its neighbors. We will also witness Chinese bullying that may well translate into shooting wars.
China is going to great lengths to ensure that, if it comes to that, a United States that is still militarily superior by most measures will suffer greatly at its hands — and probably thereby be deterred. For example, Beijing is introducing precision-guided, conventionally armed ballistic missiles designed to destroy aircraft carriers at sea, together with anti-satellite weapons intended to give the nation space control.
In addition, high-speed torpedoes with the capability to circumvent our countermeasures and advanced stealth fighters will pose a formidable threat to whatever forces we may still be able to muster. As Chinese media recently boasted, nuclear-armed, submarine-launched ballistic missiles are now poised to kill between 5 million and 12 million Americans through attacks on Western U.S. cities and radioactive fallout downwind stretching as far away as Chicago.
As in the Middle East, the perception among friends and foes alike of American disengagement and unilateral disarmament will probably translate into the proliferation of nuclear weapons in nations from Saudi Arabia to Japan. Such a development would, of course, complicate the plans of aggressors, such as Iran and China. Moreover, it will also contribute to the growing volatility of some of the world’s most explosive tinderboxes and, in the case of the Saudis, result in the migration of nuclear arms to jihadists.
Mr. Obama has contributed materially to the heightened danger the Free World now faces with his abandoning of the Reagan philosophy of peace through strength. His underfunded one-war capability leaves us exceedingly vulnerable to the ambitions of our enemies. Tragically, the next war — or two — may, like so many in the past, have been preventable, if only we had not relied on hope rather than strength to keep the peace.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. He is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program Secure Freedom Radio.