The consequence of overreach

Every student of history recognizes that there is always an ebb-and-flux pattern to events. While the Muslim conquest of Spain took less than ten years; the Reconquista required nearly 800, during which time the Christian advance sped up and slowed down, mostly depending upon the characters and abilities of the leaders on the opposing sides.

Unfortunately, modern political observers tend to take an extremely short-term view of things. They are uninterested in what happened last week, let alone last month, and so are incapable of even the most basic observations such as the direct connection between the events in Kosovo and subsequent events in Georgia. But it’s not only the observers who forget, many times the actors fail to take into consideration the probable medium- and long-term consequences of their own actions.

If you keep one thing in mind when considering political events, remember this: the King always dies.

Good kings are succeeded by bad kings. Foreign policy presidents are followed by domestic presidents, and vice-versa. A Marcus Aurelius gives way to a Commodus just as a Caligula is succeeded by a Claudius. We don’t know Obama’s character yet, but there’s no question that the aggressive Bush/Clinton/Bush foreign policies have created a degree of reactionary antipathy among countries that were never well-disposed towards the United States in the first place. So, it should come as no surprise that there are increasing rumbles heard from Russia and China lately:

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev gave his long-awaited first State of the State address (the equivalent of the U.S. president’s State of the Union address) on Nov. 5. The speech was much more than a nationalist appeal liberally sprinkled with Soviet-era rhetoric; it was a declaration of Russia’s return to the ranks of the world’s great powers. In effect, Medvedev not only tossed the gauntlet for Russia’s rivals in the West, but he also is not waiting around to see how they respond….

It was Surkov who recommended that Medvedev’s speech, originally scheduled for Oct. 23, be postponed. Ostensibly, the delay was meant to allow Russia more time to deal with its deepening financial crisis, but in reality, Surkov wanted to know which presidential candidate the Americans were going to elect. The speech was already written. In fact, according to Stratfor sources, two speeches had been written — one for each possible outcome of the U.S. election. In waiting for a clear picture on whom Moscow would be dealing with in Washington, Russia underscored the central role the United States plays in the international system, and that Moscow views Washington as its main counterweight.

Unlike many previous State of the State addresses, Medvedev’s Nov. 5 speech contained few veiled threats or simple proclamations. Instead, it announced hard actions….

And so the ghost of the previous Democratic presidency returns to haunt the president-elect, exacerbated by eight years of short-sighted Bush imperialism. Fortunately, the powerful and healthy US economy, the beneficiary of eight years of wise Republican economic stewardship and the post-Cold War Peace Dividend, will give President Obama an epic advantage in dealing with all foreign foes.