2020 a critical year: Where are we heading?
BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2020 - 12:00am

At the recent Executive Council on Diplomacy luncheon lecture here in Washington, the Financial Times columnist Edward Luce presented his perspectives on issues and anticipated developments in 2020. I first met Ed in Manila during his early days as correspondent for FT during FVR’s time.

A well-respected columnist, Ed’s views particularly on US politics, economic, international relations and the geopolitical scene are highly regarded by policy makers and diplomats.

I asked Ed Luce if we are really “in the foothills of a cold war” as warned by former US State Secretary Henry Kissinger, and he said that we are. But unlike the first Cold War with Russia, the situation today could be far more serious given the huge challenge that China poses from an economic and military standpoint. 

According to Kissinger, US and China – the two largest economies in the world – “are bound to step in each other’s toes all over the world…” In which case, the impact of a potential conflict that is “permitted to run unconstrained” could result in an outcome that could be even worse than it was in Europe. “World War I broke out because a relatively minor crisis could not be mastered,” the former US State Secretary reminded.

There is no doubt that 2020 is going to be a critical year in the world’s history, with so many things that are already happening even this early. Needless to say, the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani during a US airstrike at Baghdad airport is considered by many as a destabilizing development in the Middle East because of its potentially catastrophic ramifications. 

Soleimani played a major role in helping drive ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) out of Iraq, but he was also deemed responsible for the death of hundreds of US soldiers by anti-American militia forces that he created. As commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force – regarded as a foreign terrorist organization by the US – Soleimani had a cult-like following and was called by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as “a living martyr of the revolution.”

Analysts say that past US administrations had thought of taking down Soleimani but were hesitant because it could open up “a Pandora’s box of complications in the Middle East” due to fears that a retaliation by Iran would cause the situation to escalate, stoking fears of another costly and bloody war. The situation might also exacerbate the nuclear proliferation problem with Iran, with the conflict spreading across the Persian Gulf and impacting the region and the rest of the world. 

There are many, however, who support President Trump’s decision to take down the shadowy commander who was allegedly plotting attacks against the United States. Some Americans also point to Iraqi-American contractor Nawres Waleed Hamid who was killed during an attack at an Iraqi base last December by the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah. 

A recent survey from HuffPost and YouGov following Soleimani’s death revealed that more Americans approve of President Trump’s decision, with many convinced that the Iranian general was indeed a real threat to Americans. 

In a Washington Post opinion piece by Marc Thiessen, he said that those who think President Trump’s decision to take out Soleimani would put the US toward a cataclysmic war with Iran were wrong. On the contrary, the US president “won his standoff with Iran,” said Thiessen.

“When Trump drew his red line – warning Tehran that if it killed even one American, the United States would respond militarily against Iran – the regime never expected him to enforce it,” Thiessen wrote.

“Before the Soleimani strike, Iran doubted Trump’s resolve. After the Soleimani strike, they knew Trump was serious when the president warned that next time, ‘Iran itself will be hit very fast and very hard,’” Thiessen continued, likening Iran to a bully that backed down when confronted.

Center for Strategic and International Studies senior adviser Mark Cancian is convinced that the recent actions of the US was a clear message to North Korea that “there is a limit to US patience,” the Epoch Times reported, also quoting a defense consultant who said that Soleimani’s death signals to the world that rules have changed from previous administrations: The US will “not tolerate terror masters and their state sponsors harming or killing Americans.”

The fact is, the US has been pushed on many levels. Admittedly, there have been many mistakes during past administrations. One was the invasion of Iraq, resulting in Saddam Hussein’s execution that worsened the Sunni-Shiite conflict because it was Saddam’s strong leadership that prevented the conflict between the warring Muslim factions. Former US officials dismissed the disputed territories in South China Sea as “just rocks” – which are now virtual Chinese military bases.  

Past mistakes in the last two decades are the reason why we are in this situation today – and also why people in many parts of the world have chosen to elect unorthodox leaders like Trump and President Duterte who are seen as tough and decisive with strong personalities, unlike previous leaders who were “neither here nor there.”

While the tension between the US and Iran has seemingly de-escalated, it is clear that the situation is still very volatile. With the US being at the forefront of all these things, US legislators need to be judicious and focus on critical issues rather than on sovereignty-related ones because we are truly facing dangerous times. 

We should all join the Pope and the rest of the world in fervently praying for world peace because the alternative could only spell the end of the world.

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Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

DIPLOMACY EDWARD LUCE
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