Since 9-11 the diplomatic and military focus of the United States has narrowed to the Islamic world. The U.S. has spent huge sums on two wars and beefing up intelligence and homeland security.
When the U.S. committed to intervention in Afghanistan and then Iraq, the door was opened and America’s economic and political competitors walked through. They have made significant gains at America’s expense. Naturally, these competitors are trying to consolidate and expand their gains.
The Russians are attempting to use the American absorption to reconstruct their geopolitical position. When Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008, the U.S. did not want to commit to intervention. The Chinese are building a bigger navy to extend their perimeter. They continue to develop cyber-attack technology and are scrambling world-wide to secure resources. Pirates infest waters and threaten sea lanes that the U.S. cannot patrol. Despots subjugate their citizens and harass their neighbors in many parts of the world. Once again, North Korea is a hot spot. Venezuela and Mexico pose problems.
Are the rising threats now more ominous than the continuing threats from Islamists? Should the United States return to a more global approach with a long-term strategy of containing terrorism while not neglecting other threats, current and developing? Or should the primary focus remain the obliteration of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other radical Islamist groups? Whatever is decided, do we have the resources and the will to accomplish the mission?
Equating Afghanistan with militant Islam may have skewed our thinking. Perhaps it is time to view Afghanistan as one problem among several. Viewed that way, Afghanistan may be separated from our continued concern with the borderless threat of militant Islam.