The Challenges of 2022: What Should Worry the United States

By 

Wesley Smith

|

January 5

As we move into a new year, there are challenges and threats that loom large.  But the largest ones may not be what you think.  To listen to the leaders of the Left in the House and Senate, the biggest challenges are how to force through a divided Senate President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation or passing the controversial Voting Rights Advancement Act (essentially the same bill that was previously known as HR1 or the “For the People Act”).

As preposterous as it seems, when Vice President Kamala Harris was asked what she saw as the largest national security threat to the United States—the thing that keeps her awake at night—her number one worry was us—you and me.  In a CBS interview when the Vice President was asked this question, her response was “our democracy.”  She later tried to walk back and clarify that quick response.  Pundits are still unclear as to why the Vice President of the United States sees our democracy as the number one national security threat.

Certainly, Americans are rightfully concerned about the economy.  Inflation is the highest in 40 years.  People vividly see the alarming increase every time they go to a gas pump or grocery store.  COVID-19 is another issue which justifiably concerns all of us.  While deaths and hospitalizations are down, the number of new cases of COVID are at historic highs.  One wonders if there will be new variants of the disease after Omicron, which is now sweeping through the nation.  How to respond to the pandemic and whether stronger federal mandates are appropriate and legal also come to mind.

However, the largest challenges America and the Biden Administration will face in 2022 revolve around Russia, Iran, and China. These three nations top the list of issues that might keep the Vice President—or anyone else for that matter—awake at night.  The governments of Presidents Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei pose true threats to the world order, international law, and the peace of the world.

Negotiations continue in Vienna regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  Iran insists that all sanctions be lifted—even those unconnected to their nuclear research and development—such as sanctions related to their ballistic missile capabilities and their support of terrorist groups in the Middle East.  Meanwhile, they continue to block international inspections and are enriching uranium at the 60% level—far above the restrictions imposed on them by the JCPOA and approaching the level of enrichment needed to produce a nuclear weapon.  There is the real possibility that they are about to possess a nuclear device in a matter of weeks—not months. It is no surprise that Iran is stalling and dragging their feet in the negotiations that began right after President Biden’s inauguration.

Russia has over 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and an invasion of that country appears to be imminent.  Vladimir Putin is using this threat as a bargaining tool to extract concessions from the United States and NATO.  He is demanding that Ukraine never be admitted to NATO, that we stop selling weapons to Ukraine whereby they could defend themselves, and further demanding that no NATO weapons or troops be placed in any of the 15 nations which were a part of the former Soviet Union—even though several of them are now members of NATO and are under the protective umbrella of the alliance.  The Biden Administration and NATO have made it clear that these conditions are non-starters.  This raises the question of whether Putin is pushing these unrealistic demands knowing the West will reject them—giving him the pretext to move forward with plans to invade Ukraine.  Putin invaded the Republic of Georgia in 2008 and annexed Crimea (which is a part of Ukraine) in 2014 with relative impunity. 

China continues to bully the world economically and militarily.  Ignoring morality and international human rights, they produce inexpensive products using slave labor and the world continues to do business with them.  Over one million people in China are in “re-education” camps, and China is committing genocide against the Uyghur Muslims there.  China continues to militarize islands in international waters of the South China Sea.  Most alarmingly, China is intent on reuniting Taiwan with the Chinese mainland—using military force if necessary.  Some expect that following the Winter Olympics, Beijing will indeed attack and invade Taiwan.  That conflict runs the risk of spilling over into other nations in the Indo-Pacific region, impacting our allies such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

At this juncture in the world, strong leadership is required—particularly by the United States.  The bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan has confused our allies and emboldened our enemies.  Our adversaries will take advantage of any perceived weakness.  In his phone conversation with Vladimir Putin a few days ago, President Biden promised that the U.S. will “respond decisively” if Russia invades Ukraine.  He must keep that promise.  China and Russia must be put on notice that any invasion of Ukraine or Taiwan will incur an overwhelming price.  The West must be prepared to take aggressive action to make these two countries the pariah of the world and to invoke unheard of economic and diplomatic sanctions should they cross these lines.  And we must stand unequivocally with Israel who has vowed that Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.  There can be no hesitation or vacillation.

Last month a statement was issued by former military and national security leaders regarding Iran and the talks in Vienna.  The authors included Leon Panetta and General David Petraeus.  They wrote: “[W]e believe it is vital to restore Iran’s fear that its current nuclear path will trigger the use of force against it by the United States.  The challenge is how to restore U.S. credibility in the eyes of Iran’s leaders.  Words—including formulations that are more pointed and direct than ‘all options are on the table’—are also necessary, but not sufficient.”

Weakness invites aggression.  To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, we cannot go wobbly in our response to the potential aggression of Russia, China, and Iran.  Peace through strength is not a mere slogan or catch-phrase.  It is a mandatory principle that must guide our international policy.  The Biden Administration and the United States must exhibit not only the capability to respond in the strongest manner to these three countries and their leaders—but the willingness and intention to do just that.  This cannot be a bluff.  We must be willing to pay a price in order to make the enemies of freedom and justice pay a price for their unlawful, inhumane, and malevolent behavior.

These are the matters that should keep one up at night.

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