The world is a more dangerous place than it was in the nuclear-nervous Cold War era. This imperiled condition is not because of strength and knowledge but because of weakness and delusion.
The current crisis in the Ukraine-Crimea region and the attendant interactions (they are hardly confrontations) between President Obama and President Putin reveal this.
In the Obama-Putin match, the advantage is all Russia's.
As I write these words I am surprised that I am still here to do so. I am alive today, married, with adult children and grandchildren, in the late laps of a fulfilling career. Frankly, in the 1950s and early 1960s I didn't think any of us would be alive now as the global adversaries came to the brink again and again.
I still remember the stark afternoon in October 1962, when I picked up my wife at work, and took her home to watch President Kennedy's Cuban Missile Crisis speech. We wondered if our daily routine would end forever.
Thus when I say the world is a more dangerous place than I have known at any point in my life (which began December 5, 1941, two days before the Pearl Harbor attack and America's entry into World War 2), I am grimly aware of how serious that observation is.
Here are some reasons, all bursting to the surface in the Obama-Putin contrasts so evident in the Ukraine-Crimea upheaval.
1. The world is a more dangerous place when good will deteriorates into romantic idealism in the face of bitter, unrelenting fact.
Stephen Hawking has given us imaginary time and space to conceive of creation without God. John Lennon believed we could someday all be one if we but imagined a world of no heaven or hell, no countries, and no religion. Our postmodern president Barack Obama builds foreign policy on romantic-idealistic imagination. The Nobel Committee imagined him as a great peacemaker even before Mr. Obama's feet were all the way under the big desk in the Oval Office (much like the media mavens have granted Ronan Farrow the Walter Cronkite Award for Journalism barely before Farrow's countenance has brightened our TV screens).
2. The world is a more dangerous place when intelligence-gathering becomes unilateral.
As a young aide in the Nixon White House I watched Senator Frank Church as he and his intelligence oversight committee sought drastic reforms (some no doubt needed) in the CIA and other agencies when they had to play hardball against a KGB operating largely without rules. When it comes to intelligence-gathering there are extreme opinions that need balancing: those who believe they should snoop into everything and those who think nothing should be snooped upon. No doubt the NSA and IRS and other data-hounds have overreached, but that has happened strangely enough in the age of Obama postmodern romanticism. Meanwhile, Putin shelters Edward Snowden even as Russian intelligence continues to load its data-banks.
3. The world is a more dangerous place when absolutes become shadows rather than foundations.
Herein lies the great danger of idealistic romanticism. Personal moral absolutes and corporate ethical absolutes become mere shadows in the dreamy world of postmodern relativism. It is so easy to go from letting every individual do his or her own thing, as the 1960s mantra exhorted us, to closing the eyes while every hegemon (a nation that seeks to be the dominating power in its region) does its own thing on its march to world domination. This is based on the assumption that the beliefs of one worldview are no truer than that of any other. Western postmodern policymakers may believe in equivalency, but be assured Vladimir Putin does not.
Romanticism assumes all others will play as we do. President Obama seems to believe that if we lay down our arms (cutting the US Army to pre-1940 levels, hobbling defense spending on perhaps the eve of Iran's going nuclear, and also while Russia bolsters its military, cancelling defense treaties with American allies in the region, and binding intelligence-gathering with overreaction to acknowledged abuses) all the other competitors will too.
"Put your sword away," said Jesus. But He was giving this order to His followers, those who would be the "living stones" in His church. That doesn't mean civil authorities in a fallen world are to lay down their weapons. Paul is clear that governments do not bear the sword "in vain."
The Middle Ages militant church forgot that distinction and sometimes mutated into a religious monster. The church is not to be the enforcer in the nation, but the pastor, the shepherd. The state is to be the protector of the innocent, and that means it must be armed, vigilant (through good intelligence), and ready.
In a world like ours, wars rush into the gaps, just like a frothing tide surges into hollowed-out beaches. The Obama regime's postmodern romanticism is digging a huge hole in the sand.
Centuries ago the Roman army built its siege-camps around Masada, the high table-top mountain where Jewish stalwarts held out. The Romans knew if they waited long enough the rebels up on the mountain would weaken to the point they could be overwhelmed. Eventually, though, the Jewish leaders and their followers decided to take the route of suicide.
In the great global siege now, is it possible our leaders and many others have gone way up the mountain of romantic idealism, and chosen suicide?
The world is more dangerous than ever.