July 30 (UPI) -- Yes, the economy grew at about 4 percent last quarter. That is very good news. But is all well in America? Are we focusing on perhaps lesser dangers to our way of life and our security than what really may prove more threatening?
In the past, successive American presidents and their administrations too often have forgotten or ignored history. Likewise, America's political leaders often seem to have been infected with cultural amnesia about other societies. The consequences of these failures are inevitably destructive. Consider how the last two administrations have regarded and reacted to what each saw as the major threats to American security.
Interestingly, despite "fire and fury," the Trump administration has been relatively dovish compared to the Obama years. Barack Obama's Defense Department called for the "four plus one" strategy, that is the ability to deter and if necessary defeat in war Russia, China, North Korea or Iran while dealing with global terror. The Trump administration has deleted for the time being North Korea and global terror from that list. It is Russia and China as "near peer competitors" that now dominate defense planning along with the "rogue" state of Iran.
Regarding China, its "rise" and increasing military power, including the militarization of tiny islets in the various surrounding seas, must be checked and contained. But the warning of then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates has gone unheeded: Anyone contemplating a land war in Asia needed to have his or her head examined.
Here are three questions, the answers to which may have caused us to change our thinking:
-- How much money has China invested in America?
-- How many of NATO's 29 members physically border Russia?
-- What was the so-called "two pillar policy" in the Persian Gulf?
The answer to the first question is about $3 trillion. That is trillion with a "T." About half is in treasuries and half in stocks and real estate. In simple terms, that amounts to about 15 percent of annual U.S. GDP. China is not going to risk war with us. And still we have reacted predictably with a military response to geoeconomic and strategic challenges. That does not always work.
About Russia and NATO, the answer is 6 of the 29. Estonia and Latvia border directly on Russia as does Norway. Lithuania and Poland borders on Kaliningrad, a tiny Russian enclave on the Baltic. Believe it or not, while you cannot see Russia from Sarah Pallin's Wasilla villa, you certainly can from Alaska's Little Diomede that is within mortar range of Russia, making the United States number six.
Despite Russian intervention into Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine six years later -- and as they constantly remind us about America's invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq that began 17 years ago, Russia has no intention of attacking NATO with military force. Russia has other means it calls "active measures." Examine a map in light of this geography. The real challenge is that NATO can only respond with military tools that as in the case of China do not work well against these other forms of non-military threats.
Finally, during the Nixon administration, Iran under thesShah and Saudi Arabia under the Wahabis were on the same side against the Soviet Union. Sunnis and Shias allied to block Soviet aggression in what was called the "two pillar" policy. Of course the ayatollahs are not the shah. Yet, we forget that the so-called Sunni-Shia conflict was not relevant against a larger threat to all.
The upshot: Too often, we hype threats from falling dominoes in Southeast Asia to non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and "four plus one" strategies. It may well be that Russia and China are indeed as threatening to American and Western security as the last two administrations have believed. It is also possible that as in the past our basic assumptions and perceptions will prove to be wrong.
Yet as one sees the bitter and pernicious consequences of our deeply polarized politics and leaders of both parties who abuse, ignore or distort the truth, are the larger dangers to democracy really outside our shores? The great cartoon character of the past, Pogo, may have said it best: "We have met the enemy and it is us."
Harlan Ullman has served on the Senior Advisory Group for Supreme Allied Commander Europe (2004-16) and is Senior Adviser at Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council, chairman of two private companies and principal author of the doctrine of shock and awe. A former naval person, he commanded a destroyer in the Persian Gulf and led over 150 missions and operations in Vietnam as a Swift Boat skipper. His latest book is "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Has Lost Every War It Starts." Follow him @harlankullman.