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Patterson: Peace through weakness a really bad idea


The warning signs can no longer be ignored.

America’s future as a world power is fading. The emerging alliance of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, spanning the spectrum of autocratic, expansionist ideologies, is poised to seriously threaten Western values and our way of life.

America‘s response to a notably more dangerous world has been passive and thoughtless. In three decades, America has gone from the preeminent world power, with the promise of spreading freedom and democracy throughout the world, to a nation of deteriorating moral and strategic standing. We’ve backed ourselves into a dangerous corner.

Our enemies relentlessly undermine our interests and propagandize against us. One even leads public chants of “Death to America.” Russia wages a war of territorial aggression. China menaces our ally in the South China Sea. Hamas’ October 7 massacre was just one of several recent attacks by Iran-associated Islamic terrorist groups.

Weapons programs, especially those involving advanced technology like space weapons and biotech, are being rapidly developed by our enemies. Meanwhile, America’s relative deterrence capability has declined. Defense spending, inflation adjusted, has been reduced while military inductees are versed in the finer points of DEI.

Our Cold War presidents, especially Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan, faced similar dangers to those that challenge us today. The Soviet Union was a powerful force that brutally subjugated Eastern Europe, worked to destabilize regimes around the globe and seriously intended to establish world hegemony.

Our leaders responded then with certitude and conviction. Ronald Reagan‘s approach was not appeasement, but confrontation with superior force. He warned against “blindly hoping for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger by the day.” He recognized that “war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong but when they are weak…then tyrants are tempted.”

Reagan made defeat of the “Evil Empire” the central goal of his presidency. He rebuilt the military and doggedly pursued missile defense systems even when he was ridiculed for supporting “Star Wars." In the end it was this missile defense strategy that confounded and broke the Soviets, as Mikhail Gorbachev later confided to Margaret Thatcher.

In contrast, American policy today projects peace through weakness. We foolishly pretend tyrants will be mollified if we don’t provoke them. President Obama not only failed to support ballistic missile defenses, he backed out of commitments to install missile defense systems in Eastern Europe despite mounting Russian aggression.

Biden fecklessly waived sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, paused military aid to Ukraine and intentionally slow-walked critical supplies to our Israeli allies. We carefully dole out only enough support to our friends to stave off defeat but not enough to win.

The Cold War presidents were resolute about “stopping partisan politics at the waters edge,” meaning that domestic political considerations should never impact foreign policy. Today, Biden proves his leftist bona fides by shutting down domestic energy production while treating our enemies more indulgently. Worry over youth protests and Michigan’s electoral support inspired his support of the war aims of Hamas and other Muslim jihadis.

This summer’s presidential debate demonstrated all you need to know about why America is garnering so much disrespect. With pressing problems all about spinning out of control, two candidates with presidential experience vied to be the one to lead us into the future. The result was a farce, a “debate” that was essentially incoherent babbling between two intellectually flabby old men.

One showed the classic hallmarks of senility and should never again be allowed near the nuclear football. The other was unable to construct a coherent argument, instead lapsing into exaggerations and meaningless superlatives. There was nothing resembling serious policy analysis. The two argued over golf scores instead.

Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates writes that “at the very moment that events demand a strong coherent response from the United States, the country cannot provide one.” Americans must take our elections more seriously. We need to stop fixating on policy dead ends like climate change and identity politics.

Our short term problem now is vulnerability to attack as a result of exhibiting weakness. Our long term goal must be to select leaders better able to keep us strong and free.

Tom Patterson is a retired physician and former state senator who lives in Paradise Valley.