Should the strong protect the weak? The answer to this question says a great deal about the divergence between contemporary European and American attitudes on foreign policy.
Over the past few decades, Western European and American conceptions of foreign policy and international affairs have drifted apart, especially during Republican presidencies in the US. Those administrations have typically been more hawkish and clear-eyed about the dangers that the West faces; from Islamic terrorism, to Iranian nuclear proliferation, to the irredentist, expansionist dangers of Russia and China. In a 2012 debate between Mitt Romney and then-President Barack Obama, Western Europeans laughed along with American liberals at Obama’s sardonic criticism of Romney’s focus on Russia as a geopolitical foe. Just two years later, Romney would be proven right, as Russia invaded Ukraine. One would think that such a blatant assault on the international order – on the European continent, no less – would undermine this attitude of naïve optimism about potential foes. Unfortunately, it did not.
Western Europe continued its permissive and conciliatory posture towards the triumvirate of Iran, Russia, and China, despite the egregious human rights abuses and outwardly belligerent stances taken by those nations. Iran should be lauded for coming to the table to discuss its nuclear ambitions, while its constant support for international terrorism and regional instability can be conveniently swept under the rug. Russia is a trustworthy source of the energy that powers our civilization, even if they are chronic saber-rattlers and seek to reconstitute the imperium of old. China must be our friend because of commerce and climate; just ignore the genocide, economic coercion, and revanchist hegemonic aims. And, of course, European nations need to spend even less on defense and focus more on positive engagement and diplomacy. What sort of barbarian spends a whole two percent of its budget on its military?! Preposterous. History has ended, and we have won.
This has been how Europe – I’m using Europe here as a shorthand for the Western Europeans who largely run the EU and influence the continent’s broad foreign policy – has behaved internationally for the past decade. And now they’re faced with the consequences of their actions.
Friendly control of Taiwan is a core national security interest for the United States, and not just because of its economic heft. The strategic implications of the former Formosa go back over a century.
China has been massively upping the stakes on Taiwan, including in military exercises in which it encircled the island and simulated strikes. China has sought dominion over Taiwan for centuries and sees it as an indivisible part of its homeland – although the first extended outside interaction with the island formerly known as Formosa came via European traders in the 1500s. The Chinese Communist Party views taking control of Taiwan – a prosperous, liberal, democratic state made up largely of ethnic Chinese – as a paramount security interest. The CCP fears the implications of such a state so close to its borders offering a desirable alternative to its repressive governance, but it also seeks to control Taiwan for other reasons. Economically, it punches far above its weight, hosting major technology manufacturing industries, notably of semiconductors, and achieving a high standard of living for its citizens. But Taiwan’s real value is strategic – and not only for the Chinese. Taiwan is a core strategic interest for the United States as well.
The Biden administration’s foreign policy has been largely disastrous, with major crises happening nearly every month. The past two weeks have put this in stark relief. Three major stories showcase these foreign policy failures: revelations on the Chinese spy balloon, the release of an official report on the Afghanistan withdrawal, and the biggest intelligence leak since at least 2017. All three of these events show the administration deflecting blame, gaslighting the American people, and alienating our allies. Listen in to hear how!
Apparently, some members of the United States Senate need a refresher on why we have military presence in Japan.
Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, was at one point a very serious man who cared more about doing his job than he did about his online reputation. His background is impressive: he’s a lawyer, a former clerk for the Supreme Court, and a member of the Senate for over a decade. Back in the halcyon days of 2016, he refused to support the candidacy of Donald Trump out of principle. His legal mind is quite astute, and he has been considered for the Supreme Court by many conservatives. Suffice it to say, Lee has earned a reputation for seriousness and mental acuity. Well, at least until recently.
Since the waning days of the Trump administration, Lee has become more of a Twitter troll and MAGA opportunist than a US Senator, tweeting under the handle @BasedMikeLee (for the uninitiated, ‘based’ is online right-wing lingo for cool/badass). Just last night, he put out a series of tweets that caught my attention. In the thread starting with the tweet below, Senator Lee questions the necessity and prudence of our military commitment to Japan.
The Russian war in Ukraine has been going on for over a year now, with hundreds of thousands of casualties on each side. What has happened over the past 12 months of conflict? Where does the war stand now? What will happen next? What lessons can we take away from this conflict? Those questions and more are answered in this episode of the Rational Policy podcast, commemorating and recapping a year of warfare.