The dictators’ window is closing and they know it.
I’m talking about the opportunity for foreign regimes to take advantage of the weakness of the Obama administration. Whether it’s through incompetence or the result of a some misguided agenda, President Obama has weakened the power of the United States around the world. Even worse, he has invited our adversaries across the globe to attempt to obtain their nefarious foreign policy goals while Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry appease them all the way to the bank.
For the first few years, it was almost as if authoritarians in Moscow, Tehran and other hostile capitals couldn’t quite believe it. Can we really get away with this? Can we really take Crimea? Will he really give us nuclear weapons? Did he really just bow down? Then, sometime early in Mr. Obama’s second term, the reality started to sink in — they could get away with anything, if they just had the guts to just risk it. The conquest doctrine was reborn.
Now that window is closing. Mr. Obama only has about five more months in office, and this will be the most dangerous period this country has faced in some time. Russia is massing troops on the Ukrainian border, fabricating “terrorist” incursions in Crimea that need to be “responded to,” and sending hybrid warfare journalists into eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to prepare the propaganda ground for possible further military action.
China is threatening American freedom of navigation interests in the South China Sea. The fact that the Chinese believe they can just take control of one of the world’s most strategic waterways, much of it far from their own coastline, is simply astounding. And the challenge comes when the American Navy in the Pacific is a shell of its former glory.
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Iran is arming itself to the teeth and hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons and boatloads of sophisticated Russian weapons, threatening the region and eventually Europe and beyond. The mullahs have the money to do so thanks to Mr. Obama. Israel will also have a much harder time destroying an Iranian nuclear threat with the new Russian air defense systems now in place. Tehran is also interested in Russian fighter jets, licensing Russian tank production technology and buying up any other Russian hardware they can get their hands on.
North Korea is threatening to attack the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons and pushing ahead with their submarine-launched ballistic missile capability.
In short, everywhere you look, it’s been a despot’s paradise the last eight years.
By contrast, Wednesday’s performance in Mexico by Donald Trump was the polar opposite of the appeasement approach of the current administration. Viewers were treated to a live example of the art of the deal.
Mr. Trump has been shouting for a year that NAFTA was a bad deal for the United States and that Mexico should pay for a wall to stop illegal immigration. The pundits screamed over how stupid, arrogant, racist and inept the GOP nominee was. But Wednesday we all witnessed a wonderful thing: The Mexican president actually invited Mr. Trump to Mexico City, agreed that NAFTA could be re-examined and treated Mr. Trump as an important world leader.
Unlike Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump laid out a very strong, tough, uncompromising position. Only at that point — where your adversary is sure that you mean what you say — can the real negotiations begin with a chance of a favorable outcome for the United States. If you think about it, Mr. Trump has systematically been laying the foundations for a new respect for America from the despots who have grown to Mr. Obama’s weakness. This was all cleverly thought out and deliberately executed. Come January, the Trump administration can begin fresh negotiations with China, Russia, Iran and the world’s other bad guys from a position of strength.
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But as I say, the next several months will be extremely dangerous. Foreign tyrants all understand Mr. Trump will be a much tougher president to deal with. If they want something, they’d better take it now.
I don’t think Russia actually wants to seize Donbass, and I don’t think China wants to go to war to completely seal off the South China Sea. But I also know that if their leaders want to do it, now is the time.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.