By Joe Rangonese
Keeping us out of WWIII will be President Trump’s hardest task due to the weakness of the Obama years. Those years of retreating from world leadership have placed America, and the world, in a crisis the likes of which we have not seen since the acquiescence of Neville Chamberlin to Adolf Hitler prior to WWII. The result of weakness and pulling back from leadership, in both cases, leaves a void that will quickly be filled by zealots and tyrants.
Those enemies of western civilization are lined up vying to take over all, or pieces of the world leadership that have been abdicated by Obama. Russia wants to destroy NATO, while at the same time dominating Eastern Europe, as well as projecting power in the Middle East. China wants to control the entire Pacific Basin. Iran wants to be the regional power in the Middle East, and is willing to share its power with Russia in order to obtain regional dominance. All three hate America, weakness emboldens those emotions, and all are preparing for war with us.
The absolute worst thing that we can do once Mr. Trump is sworn in is nothing. President Trump needs to rebuild our military from the ground up. He knows this and it is one of his priorities. Both Democrats and Republicans have allowed our military to erode to an almost dysfunctional state. With 15 years of constant war our warriors and their equipment are worn out; while simultaneously, morale and effectiveness have been eroded through politically correct social changes to the order and discipline necessary to field an effective fighting force. The greatest military in the world is still top dog, but only barely and not for long. President Trump must rebuild at the same time as he wards off attacks from world leaders used to Obama’s ineptness.
If we engage in a war with a peer combatant (right now both Russia and China are near peer status and China is doing everything it can to attain that status as quickly as possible), the outcome of such a conflict is not certain. What is certain is that if two or all three enemies join forces, as our military stands today, we cannot beat them, nor do we have the ability to engage all three simultaneously.
That brings us back to the opening statement, President Trump’s primary concern when taking office will be to keep us out of WWIII. His actions, from day one, will determine if we engage in that conflict, and if it will be with one or all three antagonists. China has already pushed the envelope by stealing a Navy underwater drone. At this writing it has been reported that China intends to return the drone; however, the audacity to steal it in front of the American ship’s civilian crew, only 40 nautical miles from Subic Bay Naval Base, speaks volumes about China’s aggressiveness and willingness to defy all maritime norms of civilized behavior. China is mentally ready to go to war with America, but is holding off only because their military buildup is not yet complete. They are close, but not quite there.
Their aggressive actions are open and obvious. They want to control the entire South China Sea, from the tip of Japan to Australia. They have repeatedly stated that the area is theirs and their building of islands and militarizing them is a direct attack on open navigation of the area. It is helpful to recall that America has gone to war due to maritime harassment of U.S. shipping more than for any other reasons. Even WWII began because Japan was threatened by U.S. Naval strength in the same Pacific basin that China now claims as theirs.
This writer does not see any resolution of this situation other than a war with China. They are not about to back down in their claims (just as Japan did not prior to WWII) and unless we can somehow convince their massive population to rebel against the present Communist leadership, a war with China is inevitable. It may still be ten to twenty years away, but it is on the horizon.
Iran is the next danger to confront. They are actually more volatile than China, as they are ready to go to war with America (and Israel) today if the opportunity presents itself. The Iranians have been harassing our Navy with open contempt for a long time; more so recently as they have absolutely no respect for Obama. They are more dangerous than China or Russia because they are religious fanatics. They have open hatred and contempt for America and have been attacking us since 1979 with few repercussions for having done so. History teaches us what needs to be done the next time that Iran harasses one of our ships in international waters. On April 18, 1988, President Ronald Reagan authorized Operation Praying Mantis in response to the Iranians placing an anti-ship mine in international waters that damaged the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58), a Perry Class Guided missile frigate. No American loss of life occurred, although several sailors were injured, as was the ship.
Operation Praying Mantis was the largest U.S. Naval action undertaken since the end of WWII and involved the USS Enterprise task force. Naval and Marine aircraft, anti-ship missiles, and naval gunfire destroyed two oil platforms used by Iran for intelligence collection, sank four small Iranian Navy boats, an Iranian frigate and severely damaged another of their warships. President Reagan said of the incident, “They must know that we will protect our ships, and if they threaten us, they will pay the price.” Iran did not again directly challenge our Navy until President Clinton showed his weakness.
Cowardice has a price. Clinton pulling out of Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, after the heavy loss of American lives, (18 killed, 74 wounded) without retaliation, demonstrated to the jihadi world the lack of resolve in the U.S. The direct result of that weakness was the attack on America on September 11, 2001, after several preliminary attacks against the American Embassy in Kenya (1998) and the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen (2000), that Clinton also failed to respond to. These were carried out by Al Qaeda; however, Iran had its own ongoing war with America through its surrogates in Lebanon, Hezbollah. Clinton ignored this too, in favor of perusing female companionship.
Obama should have taken heed of President Reagan’s words to Iran, because he showed his cowardice when declaring a red line in the sand with Syria, and when he did nothing, Iran began numerous and aggressive attacks against American (and British) shipping in the Persian Gulf. After one attack against our sailors, Obama apologized to Iran; which brought about more intense harassment of our ships. A similar spanking, of the caliber of Operation Praying Matins, toward Iran, is in order.
President Trump has already expressed two desires to the world; to improve relations with Russia and to destroy ISIS. He is locked into both. First he must try to repair relations with Russia for many reasons. Russia and China together would be able to defeat America in any type of war which we would engage. If we are to go to war with China, which seems likely, we sure don’t want Russia siding with them. If Russia sides with China in a war with America, Iran would join them with glee and joy.
Russia is not our friend. I do not believe that President-elect Trump is under any illusion that they are; he simply understands the need to not pick fights with everybody at the same time. Russia can be placated by showing them respect as equals on the world stage. This can be done while still keeping America’s interest first and foremost. Remember, Mr. Trump campaigned on the promise of America first, there is no reason to doubt that he will not keep that in mind when dealing with our enemies, especially Russia. President Trump knows that Putin is not a man that we can trust; rather that he is someone that we can deal with.
To satisfy both Russia’s need for respect, and to eliminate ISIS, President Trump might be able to broker a deal with Putin to jointly confront them. There are many benefits to working with Russia, as well as many shortcomings. We could learn much about their combat capabilities, but they would learn as much about ours. The idea is sound, but maybe not workable. It is somewhere to start. In any case, ISIS must be destroyed because President Trump said he would do so, and we need to show the world that America is back in the lead.
President Trump does not have the luxury of time to rebuild our military and reputation worldwide. World events are overtaking him even before he is sworn into office. He will have to do a political dance to stave off WWIII while rebuilding our military and our infrastructure, including business and revitalize the economy. All three must be done if we are to have any chance at staving off WWIII. Eight years of Obama have placed America in a dangerous situation that only a strong leader can repair.
President Trump is that leader; never the less, I am going to hold my breath while events play out both internationally and domestically. Those hate filled Hillary supporters need to suck it up and help America get through these dangerous times. It will take all of us, working for the common good, to avoid WWIII.