Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, does Washington see the lurking threats against America?
Though focused on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US must mind other trouble spots.
With the United States hyperfocused on its encounters with militant political Islam, especially in Southwest Asia (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran), the public can perhaps be forgiven for failing to see the full kaleidoscope of other challenges – military and otherwise – waiting unnoticed just over the horizon.Skip to next paragraph
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We are beset with information overload and thus become mesmerized with a single threat like Al Qaeda terrorism, missing other spots where trouble is brewing.
Twenty-eight years ago this month, most of my London-based colleagues and I were sitting in Beirut awaiting a much-expected Israeli invasion of Lebanon to hammer Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization.
From Beirut, reporters waited only for the ground to dry so Israel’s Merkava tanks would not get bogged down in Lebanon’s red spring mud. But then, on April 2, the ABC News desk called me and said, “Get the next plane to London. Argentina’s invaded the Falklands. Britain’s going to war.” Where are the Falklands? some reporters asked.
Later, I came to call this the “Falklands factor,” the unexpected, out-of-sight surprises that jump up to slap you on the back of the head, dragging nations into wars. Think Sarajevo, 1914.
In an earlier column, I explained why the Arctic, with billions of dollars in undersea oil and natural- gas deposits, is becoming a military flash point. It may not be long before headlines cause you to ask, “Where is the Strait of Malacca, and why should I care?” It’s an Indian Ocean jugular through which passes much of China’s energy imports to fuel its burgeoning economy. Block the strait and China’s economy stalls. Beijing is rapidly building a strong Navy. Its regional rival India expects to build three nuclear-powered submarines and three aircraft carriers before 2015. The Indian Ocean is awash with conflict zones.
As Robert Kaplan pointed out in a Foreign Affairs article last year, “One reason that Beijing wants desperately to integrate Taiwan into its dominion is so that it can redirect its naval energies away from the Taiwan Strait and toward the Indian Ocean.” Mr. Kaplan notes that 70 percent of the world’s total petroleum-product traffic passes through the Indian Ocean.