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Interregnum and the Wars of the American Succession

TOM BURGUM
Staff Columnist
burgum@lbknews.com

Jonah Goldberg, in a recent Goldberg File article, raised an interesting point, perhaps, a clarifying one. He related that Jacob Grygiel of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies likened the current global environment to what is called the interregnum.

The interregnum, in the historical context, is that period between the reign of one king and the beginning of the next ruler. As Goldberg wrote, “You don’t have to be a fan of Game of Thrones to understand that is a dangerous time. Ambitions manifest themselves . . . Loyalties become unclear. Irons get struck when they are hot . . . When a system is structured around the power and authority of a single individual, it’s wholly understandable that it will go into crisis when that individual disappears and it’s not immediately clear who will replace him.”

History vindicates Goldberg’s contention. England suffered through over 30 years of civil war, in what is called the War of the Roses, when the English thrown became up for grabs in 1455. The War of the Spanish Succession, 1701 – 1714, was fought to decide who would succeed Charles II. In 1740, the question of Maria Therese’s succession to the House of Hapsburgs spawned a series of conflicts that lasted over 12 years.

The French Revolution in 1789 left the question of leadership open and the attempts to fill it disintegrated into a chaotic bloodbath that only ended with the rise of the Napoleonic dictatorship in 1799 that, in turn, plunged the whole of Europe in warfare for 15 years.

Victor Davis Hanson believes that the world in the last five or six years has been radically transformed because of the absence of American leadership. “Instead of the old accustomed Western-inspired postwar global order,” writes Hanson, “crafted and ensured by the United States and its European and Japanese partners, there is now mostly chaos.”

Obama is fond of telling us that this, or that, action is not to be countenanced in the 21st Century. There are, according to him, new rules: Invading other nations — not cool in the 21st; Beheading folks is so 16th Century.  Bullying neighbors into giving up rights in international waters is now passé. Problem is Putin’s Russia, ISIS, Syria, Iran and China are governed by hard men who are not prone to sign on to Obama’s Pollyannaish, faculty lounge view of the world.

You would think that the lessons Obama has learned in just the past year might bring some recalibration of his foreign policy. Russia has unleashed raw military power in the Ukraine after a swift and brutal take over of the Crimea and now threatens Estonia.

According to the Guardian, U.K., an Estonian counter-intelligence officer was dragged across the border into Russia last Friday. The first Estonian protest was met with silence, but then the bigger game emerged. Now Putin’s thuggish government claims the Estonian was caught on Russian soil. Clearly, Putin plans on testing Obama’s pledge to defend the Baltic States. Putin vs. Obama: given recent events, why would any Eastern European nation rush to bet on Obama?

On it goes. China, as Hanson observes, is busy bullying its neighbors to convince them that it is wiser to align themselves with China than to stand in opposition. “And,” as Hanson observed, “those who join the Chinese team get a determined patron, those who don’t are free to figure out what exactly the next Obama red line, deadline, or step-over line actually means.”

Nations in the Mideast aren’t exactly comfortable with Obama’s foreign policy. Currently our Secretary of State John Kerry is busy trying to put together a coalition of the willing to help fend off the ISIS challenge. It is not going well.

According to Monday’s Wall Street Journal, “Arab officials said in interviews over the past week they are skeptical of the Obama administration’s campaign on Islamic State in the wake of what they call a diminished U.S. role in the Middle East.” Why shouldn’t they be skeptical? They watched the United States refuse to send weapons to the Ukraine for fear of making Putin even more hostile — if that is possible. They saw the redline crossed in Syria, then witnessed Obama back down. They no doubt heard the Polish foreign minister proclaim, “American guarantees are worthless.”

Kerry’s mission is made even more difficult by his slavish, nonsensical fixation on global warming as the world’s greatest danger. As the world descends even closer to armed conflict and a deadly Ebola outbreak threatens to become a continent-wide epidemic, Kerry took time to address African leaders. He told the Africans, according to Investor’s Business Daily, that, “Certain agricultural processes can actually release carbon pollution,” so stop creating new farms. If the African leaders weren’t puzzled about American policy before Kerry spoke, they sure must have been after.

One doubts the starving people of Africa view global warming as their greatest threat. China is making a determined push to become the dominant power in central and western Africa. Kerry’s lecture can only serve to make China a more attractive partner.

Possibly Hanson had the clearest and simplest way to explain the dangers of the interregnum. He sees the world in a Wild West moment, when “everyone in the saloon has drawn his six-shooter, paused, and is wondering what happened to the sheriff − and wondering, too, who will be the first to dare start shooting.”

Let the wars of the American Succession began.

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