Officials start to see the world is more dangerous than they thought in 2021.
high temperatures in the ocean around Florida, wildfires and heat waves across
Southern Europe, and flash floods and freak storms elsewhere have stirred fears
of catastrophic climate change.
another kind of climate change is also at work. The global political climate is
heating up, and the rising geopolitical temperature is likely to hit faster and
could wreak more havoc than anything Greenpeace is worried about. Geopolitical
climate denialism is a more urgent danger to national security than melting
glaciers in Greenland.
Barack Obama was the Great Denialist in geopolitics, temporizing and tap
dancing, appeasing and apologizing as an axis of anti-American revisionist
powers consisting of China, Russia, Iran and their satellites stepped up their
resistance and began to coordinate policies. Russia invaded Ukraine and
re-entered the Middle East, China embarked on the greatest military buildup in
the history of the world, and Iran built up a regional empire while Washington
dreamed beautiful dreams.
Biden came into office knowing that the geopolitical world was getting hotter,
but believing that the root cause was Donald Trump’s bull-in-a-China-shop
approach to foreign policy. Put the smart people back in charge, restore some
nuance and diplomatic finesse to the system, repair the trans-Atlantic
relationship, and all would be well. “Park” Russia by reaching an understanding
with Vladimir Putin, park Iran by re-entering the nuclear deal, and then firmly
but carefully clip China’s wings while inviting Beijing to cooperate on real
issues of the day, like global governance and climate change.
an elegant, almost Obamian strategy, awash in subtlety and finesse. It had one
flaw. It could work only if America’s adversaries went along.
didn’t. Instead of rolling tamely into the parking lot, Russia invaded Ukraine
and doubled down on its efforts to build a sphere of influence in Africa. Iran
turned up its nose at Mr. Biden’s offer to relaunch the nuclear deal and
intensified its drive toward regional hegemony and nuclear weapons. And China
responded to American pressure by deepening its ties to Russia and Iran while
stepping up the pressure on Taiwan.
summer we’ve seen the geopolitical equivalent of a record heat wave. The war in
Ukraine escalated as Russia stepped up its missile attacks and withdrew from
the grain-shipping deal that limited the cost of the war to poor countries in
the Middle East and beyond. Iran’s threats to Gulf oil shipping are so serious
that the administration has been forced to plan for Marines to be deployed to
protect oil tankers. Russia is deepening its economic ties with North Korea and
engaging in joint naval maneuvers with China around both Japan and Alaska. And
in the Sahel, the overthrow of the pro-Western president of Niger by an
apparently pro-Russian junta has led the Biden administration to back moves by
neighboring nations that could lead to armed conflict with American troops at
Biden’s basic problem is that our adversaries believe their strategy of turning
up the heat is working. With the 2024 election approaching and isolationism
rising in both political parties, adversaries around the globe hope that
America’s commitment to the current world order will crack as it comes under
credit where it is due, the administration has taken some smart steps as it
gradually grasped the gravity of the situation. It walked back the foolish
policy of alienating Saudi Arabia and began to rethink its posture in the
Middle East. It embraced Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is engaging in
the Sahel. It continues to support Ukraine even if moving too slowly on weapons
there is one vital thing it is still failing to do. While the Biden
administration has discovered that the world is a more dangerous place than it
thought back in January 2021, too many Americans still think we are living in
Barbie’s world, not Oppenheimer’s. Mr. Biden, backed by responsible leaders in
both parties, needs to alert the country to the very real dangers we face
around the world.
and vigilant America can still deter our adversaries from pressing their
challenge to a point of no return. New wars that would dwarf the Ukraine
conflict, engage Americans in direct combat, and potentially engulf the entire
planet in the most destructive conflict ever waged are not, yet, inevitable.
Biden’s greatest challenge is geopolitical, not meteorological. His most
important job is to prepare the American people to face the rapidly
intensifying global crisis.
needs to move quickly.
global temperature continues to rise.