If opportunity is a congenital twin to chaos, then war is its handmaiden. Yet the smart strategist side-steps conflict to embrace favorable contingencies.
Alliances are now loose, multiple and wide-ranging, in stark contrast to the iron curtain era of the Soviets when Hungary’s vain attempt to loosen its ties ended in disaster.
India, for example, is seeking some sort of security arrangement with the US to balance the threat it feels from China. At the same time, it has a long history of buying arms from Russia.
Arch rival Pakistan is a long-time friend of China to the point of being almost a client state. Not surprisingly, it is very sensitive to India’s closer ties in that direction.
Saudi Arabia is playing fast and loose with its US ties as it broadens its associations and begins to woo Iran, which has recently signed an understanding with China and Russia. As China depends on its oil and gas from the Gulf, it has an interest in peace there and encouraged the Saudi initiative.
In this Middle East maelstrom, the US is conspicuous in its absence. The US president is supposed to speak softly and carry a big stick except the current occupant of the office is inaudible and his stick is a crutch.
So the US is sending F-16 fighters to Ukraine. But Ukraine is a minor player. The real prize is Russia itself with its vast resources.
China meanwhile is out of anyone’s grasp. It has become a major player in its own right, a rising power competing with the extant one in what has been long known as the Thucydides trap — a scenario to be avoided at all costs for war in our times can lead to a nuclear Armageddon.
What remains are cultural, educational and economic tools. The US boasts the finest universities in the world and foreign students from almost everywhere come to take advantage of it. One has to look no further than Wikipedia for an extensive list of foreign leaders who have studied at US universities.
America continues to offer a huge market for high-value products like airplanes and automobiles. Airbus in Europe, and car manufacturers there as well as Japan continue to both export and assemble cars in the US. Japan’s success has been due to its developing production techniques to ensure quality and reliability, translating to worry-free ownership.
Then in popular culture, the US has often been the fountainhead setting trends in music, for example, taken up later by Britain and the rest of Europe.
Cultural influence, economic power and military strength even when unused are at the heart of assertion without force. The client states are willing acceptors for the economic and/or security benefits.
Such is the world today and at least one country has got its act together. Guess, which one?