"After eight years of withdrawal, what rules should the U.S. follow to effectively reassert itself in world affairs?
The most dangerous moments in foreign affairs often come after a major power seeks to reassert its lost deterrence.
The United States may be entering just such a perilous transitional period.
Rightly or wrongly, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Middle East-based terrorists concluded after 2009 that the U.S. saw itself in decline and preferred a recession from world affairs.
In that void, rival states were emboldened, assuming that America thought it could not — or should not — any longer exercise the sort of political and military leadership it had demonstrated in the past. ...In reaction,
- North Korea increased its missile launches and loudly promised nuclear destruction of the West and its allies.
- Russia violated its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and absorbed borderlands of former Soviet republics.
- Iran harassed American ships in the Persian Gulf and issued serial threats against the U.S. China built artificial island bases in the South China Sea to send a message about its imminent management of Asian commerce.
- In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State killed thousands in medieval fashion and sponsored terrorist attacks inside Western countries.
Amid such growing chaos, a return to former (and normal) U.S. deterrence would inflame such aggressors and be considered provocative by provocateurs.
Accordingly, we should remember a few old rules for these scary new crises on the horizon.
1. Avoid making verbal threats that are not serious and backed up by force. After eight years of pseudo-red lines, step-over lines, deadlines, and “game changers,” American ultimatums without consequences have no currency and will only invite further aggression.
2. The unlikely is not impossible. Weaker powers can and do start wars. Japan in December 1941 attacked the world’s two largest navies based on the false impression that great powers which sought to avoid war did so because they were weak..."
Lots here, read on!