April 4, 2016 | Forbes
The Whole World Is In Turmoil Not Just Us
The fierce conflicts we are witnessing in the primaries are not just an American phenomenon, indeed it’s hard to find a country that isn’t fighting internally as we are. Most of the world is intensely divided, and our own domestic debates are part of a global disruption.
The many divisions should not surprise us, as we are in the midst of a transition from the post-World War II bipolar world to something else, something as yet unclear. In part, it is a return to historic normalcy, although few who grew up during the Cold War would recognize it as such. The post-war world, for roughly a half-century after the defeat of Germany and Japan, was unusually peaceful compared with past centuries. From 1945 until very recently, there was no major war, and “stability” was considered a fundamental objective of sensible strategy. Three or four generations have grown up in that world, and are surprised at open conflict and instability.
This bespeaks ignorance of the past. Americans have long been unique in believing that peace is the normal condition of mankind. The opposite is true. Most of human history, including our own, is the story of war, the consequences of wars, and preparations for war. The United States fought two world wars in the twentieth century, a very bloody civil war in the 19th, and a revolutionary war in the 18th. Our recent past—fifty years without a major war–is most unusual. It was primarily the result of the exercise of American and Soviet power, paradoxically two revolutionary countries, insisting on an uneasy standoff.
We are now returning to a more violent normalcy, where peace is rare and stability most unlikely. The two superpowers that dominated the post-war period are now absent; the Soviet Union is gone, and the United States has abandoned its global mission.
It was only to be expected that we would see convulsions in every region, both between states and within them, between radical terrorist groups and their infidel targets, and within the terrorist organizations themselves, as in the spawning of Islamic State from within al Qaeda. Borders are disappearing, and not only in the war zones of the Middle East. Will there still be a European Union in five years? Will Britain or Poland or Hungary be part of it? Will Turkey still be in NATO?
Nobody knows, and it may take quite a while before our crystal ball becomes even moderately clear. The United States probably could have guided a more peaceful transition, but chose not to, especially during the Obama years. Now we are in a big war, with our traditional alliances in pieces and, Obama to the contrary notwithstanding, no successful “resets” with former enemies. The latest example of such failures is Turkey, whose president was for many years Obama’s closest buddy in the region. This time, however, President Erdogan was treated as if he were Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
It didn’t have to be this bad—the mass of refugees and killers in the Middle East, Africa and Europe bears witness to the gravity of the moment– but the end of the post-war world was always going to be difficult. Intense political strife is an inescapable component of the quest for a new international paradigm, which the next president will have to try to define.
Michael Ledeen is the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.