CSIA Foundation

by Nicholas Guariglia

If one were to sum up the public mood for the past seven years, it would go something like this: from September 11, 2001 until January 2008, the public largely overlooked a healthy economy because it was upset with what it considered to be a failed foreign policy. But now, since the beginning of this year, the sustained gains from the military surge have allayed fears about Iraq, and the struggling economy – high energy prices, a federal deficit, collapsing entitlement programs, a housing bubble crisis – has emerged to the forefront of the public’s worries.
During tough economic times, it is human nature for citizens to pull in their financial reins; to spend less, to invest less, and to save more. Therefore, psychologically, people expect the same to occur on a national level. Government expands to “save the day.” Trade becomes inward, more protectionist to “protect” American-made goods. Exports go down. And abroad, despots get a strange look in their eye, and some very dangerous thoughts in their minds. Our enemies become hungry wolves encircling a wounded rabbit. ....

There’s a lesson to be learned here, and it is this: when the cat’s away, the mice will play.
If history is any indication, we can be certain of two things: 1) when the United States is economically weak, our enemies exploit that weakness; 2) when we elect new presidents, our enemies challenge their resolve.
It happened to Truman, who lost China to the communists, allowed Stalin to get the bomb, and settled with an ugly draw on the Korean peninsula.
It happened to Eisenhower, who lost the space race to Moscow, and Cuba to Castro.
It happened to Kennedy, whose naiveté in meetings with Khrushchev convinced the Soviet Politburo he could be had, starting a missile crisis that nearly destroyed the world.
It happened to Carter, who once mocked his fellow Americans for having an “inordinate fear” of communism, only to see the Russians gobble up Afghanistan and violate his precious arms control agreements he was sure they would honor. His “holy man” Khomeini overtook our embassy, effectively ending Carter’s chances at reelection and ruining his legacy.
It happened to Reagan with the Marine barracks in Beirut.
It happened to George H.W. Bush with Noriega and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
It happened to Clinton with Milosevic, Saddam’s inspection violations and attempts to assassinate George Bush Sr., and al Qaida’s attacks on our embassies.
And of course, it happened to George W. Bush (is reference to 9/11 even needed?).
Al Qaeda, an organization which has only existed for two U.S. presidential administrations, challenged both President Clinton in the first months of his presidency — the 1993 World Trade Center bombing — and President Bush Jr. in the first months of his first-term with the second World Trade Center attack. Al Qaeda even attacked the USS Cole before Bush’s inauguration.
Sen. Obama’s election would be the first time that these two geopolitical phenomena combined into one. His socialistic and protectionist economic policies would not only further the recession, thus making us more vulnerable than we already are, but his juvenile freshman outlook of the world would cause al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iran, et al, to salivate with eager anticipation. ...

Within the next four years, I fear that one or more foreign events will occur — upheaval in Pakistan, the nuclearization of Iran, a Russian invasion of another European ally, a Chinese attack on Taiwan, more North Korean roguery, another war in Lebanon, the collapse of Iraq, an all-out attempt to liquidate Israel, a catastrophic terrorist attack — that will overshadow, dwarf, and to some degree exasperate, our current anxieties on the home-front. And it will be then, and only then, that we will all collectively realize what we have done as a country, in electing a young, unknown novice — a weak man, to put it bluntly — over the well-known steady-hand and statesmanship of the elder John McCain.

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