The Foreign Mess Awaiting the Next President

The 58th United States presidential election will arrive in 4 weeks, and emotions have never been more intense around the election of a U.S. president, at least not in the past couple of decades. Democrat and Republican rant and rave alike, daring Donald and humiliating Hillary. That is not necessarily bad. It is a manifest sign of freedom of expression, which is a building block of democracy. But if things are to remain that way and of course to improve, one must look beyond the minimal binary division of Democrat/Republican to the future of the American nation as a beacon of democracy. Whoever inherits Obama’s mantle will have to face three rising security threats if democracy is to maintain in the United States in the long run.

The Russian Threat

First, the growing Russian threat. After the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, the world experienced almost two decades of relative liberalization and democratization as a result of American ascendency. However, in the past few years the dormant Russian juggernaut has arisen again with dangerous designs on the world. Putin’s Russia has taken advantage of a number of so-called “frozen conflicts” in the Caucasus region to expand its influence southward. Russia has intervened in Georgia – because it is strongly opposed to Georgia’s joining the European Union – on the side of the separatist Abkhaz and Ossetian contingents. Russia has also been the major backer of Armenia against the American-friendly Azerbaijan in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict.

To the southwest, Russia has intervened in the recently-EU-admitted Ukraine, separating the Crimean Peninsula from it and preventing the proper functioning of its beleaguered legal government. To the west, Russia has loomed large over the three tiny EU Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, the West’s ultimate frontier with and last line of deface against Russia. It has also flexed its muscles in the Baltic Sea by shadowing and conducting mock attacks on the U.S. Fleet. Further west, Russian bombers have occasionally breached the British airspace over the North Sea. Russia has just moved nuclear-armed missiles into Kaliningrad, on the Baltic.  Last but not least, Russians have intervened in Syria on the side of the dictatorial and murderous President Assad, militarized the Caspian Sea, and established military airbases in Iran. Most recently, Russia suspended the weapons-grade plutonium disposal deal with the United States on the grounds of “unfriendly acts” by Washington.

The Islamist Threat

Second, the growing Islamist threat. The regime of the mullahs, the Islamic Republic in Iran, has been the epicenter of that kind of threat. By constantly theorizing against the U.S. on the intellectual and popular levels, and by actively engaging against U.S security and interest in the Middle East and elsewhere, the Islamist regime in Iran is the hub of all anti-American Islamist propaganda in the world. The Islamic Republic has been constantly threatening the U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, destabilizing Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen and Lebanon, and making mock attacks on the American Navy in the Persian Gulf and taking hostage its marines. It does not either comply with the terms of the much-touted nuclear deal, refusing to effect a full implementation of the deal by mass-producing long-range missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

The ongoing joint military operations of the Islamic Republic, Lebanese Hezb’allah, and Russia in favor of Bashar Assad have made a bloodbath of Syria that is pushing – not necessarily without a design – hordes of refugees westwards through Turkey and the Mediterranean basin, which is likely to spill over into North America. That is bound to make substantial transformations in the demographic structure and security concerns of the United States. This is not to deny the refugees their rights and their humanity, but to caution that considerable attention must be devoted to a very delicate process of “transition” if democracy is to hold in the U.S.


Third, the resurgent Chinese Communist threat in the Far East. China, an American business partner in many respects, has been constantly on the rise as a Communist giant in the Far East. By weathering the effects of the decline of “World Communism” and then silently but steadily absorbing Hong Kong and Macau as signal models of capitalist economy in the region, China has shown great appetite for further expansion southwards. As such, China tends to threaten American interest and security in Southeast Asia and, if unchecked, in the Pacific. In the past few years, China has been creating numerous artificial islands in the South China Sea that have caused geopolitical tensions with its immediate neighbors as well as the United States. The port facilities, military bases and airstrips that China has constructed on the islands enable it to have sustained sea and air ascendancy in the region, to the detriment of U.S. security and economy. And that is not to mention China’s small but more mischievous neighbor and to some extent client state to the east, North Korea, its multiple nuclear missile tests with the admitted aim of targeting the U.S., and its continual menacing of Japan, a staunch American ally, by shooting rockets into the Sea of Japan.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that democracy is maintained at home when security is protected overseas. That might sound like old-fashioned imperialism, but it is not so. American security is not necessarily protected by merely sending troops, fleets and mechanized units overseas – although its capacity to occasionally act as assurance for action must never be excluded. Rather, American security and democracy at home will be upheld through the development of democracy – with all its attachments – in the farther-flung corners of the globe. But that calls for the next president of the United States as the supreme representative of the American nation to have the necessary brains and stomach to face the terrors of the earth.

Reza Parchizadeh is a political theorist and analyst. He has a BA and an MA in English Language and Literature from University of Tehran, Iran; has studied Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University, Sweden; and is a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature and Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). Reza has published five books and many articles so far both in Persian and English. Some of his articles have been translated into Arabic. His research interests include theory, philosophy, history, geopolitics, security, and cultural studies. Reza is co-editor-in-chief of the Persian-language think tank Tahlil Rooz.