Walter Russell Mead tries his hand at being a conspiracy theorist:
Our adversaries – and some of our allies as well as several American policy makers and commentators – believe that a polarized America is locked into decline and retreat. This is not, the revisionist powers feel, a good reason to offer Mr. Biden help in rebalancing his commitments. On the contrary, it is the time to double down on their assaults on the American world order. The logic is so obvious that they don’t need to coordinate their response. If America stands tall in the South China Sea, the revisionists will chip away in the Black Sea. If we toughen our stance in the Baltics, they will push harder in the Balkans. If we try to escape the Middle East, they will drag us back in.
Mead is suffering from the ideologue’s affliction of trying to force world events to fit his preconceived notions. Many things are happening at the same time, and so he decides to link them all together and to assert that the governments in different parts of the world must be working in concert with a common goal in mind. Nothing has happened in the last year that requires us to subscribe to this paranoid view of the world. Mead is attributing made-up motives to the leaders of these governments because it is convenient for his argument and easier than doing the work of trying to understand why these things are happening.
If tensions are rising between Russia and Ukraine, it is not because Putin is “doing what [he] can to keep the president from focusing on Asia.” It is happening because of Russian frustrations with ongoing U.S. and NATO involvement in Ukraine. Iran is taking a harder negotiating position over the nuclear deal because they have a new administration headed by a notorious hard-liner. It is not because Iran desires to “drag” the US back into the Middle East. Obviously, the Iranian government has had a decades-long goal of getting the US to reduce or end its presence in the region, so keeping the US focused on their part of the world is the last thing that they would want. Each government is acting according to its own perceived interests and is pursuing longstanding policy goals that have nothing to do with a US “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.