Even more importantly, Obama must rebuild U.S. economic strength. Although Reagan boosted the defense budget, he saw the contest between the United States and the Soviet Union fundamentally as a struggle between political and economic systems in which the dynamism of American capitalism was the West's trump card. As a liberal taking office in the wake of a financial collapse, Obama is rightly concerned not only about capitalism's dynamism, but also its stability and decency. Still, the crucial insight is that power in world affairs rests on economic strength. Obama needs to remind Americans that their most successful Cold War presidents -- Reagan included -- saw the conflict as a primarily economic struggle. Soviet communism threatened the United States less because the Red Army might overrun Western Europe than because, for a time at least, it represented a serious competitor for the hearts and minds of people across the globe.
In that regard, it is not jihadi fanaticism that has taken the Kremlin's place. After all, even in the Muslim world, barely anyone really believes that al Qaeda, the Taliban, or Iran's ruling clerics can build a society prosperous and stable enough to challenge the West. The better analogue is China's 21st-century authoritarian capitalism, which has built a record of political stability and economic dynamism that has captured the imagination of people (and governments) throughout the developing world.
In the nascent economic and ideological struggle between the United States and China, wars that Washington cannot possibly pay for -- and which leave the country more reliant on foreign central bankers -- don't make America stronger; they make it weaker. Of course, the United States and China are far more economically interdependent than were the United States and the Soviet Union. But within every interdependent relationship lies a balance of power, and Obama's leverage over China will depend in large measure on his ability to stop hemorrhaging money, lives, and attention in the Muslim world so he can rebuild the political and economic institutions that form the foundation of U.S. national strength. Do that, and the American model can triumph again, peacefully. Ronald Reagan -- if not his contemporary right-wing admirers -- would understand.
The Republican Party's contributors and, in particular, its media supporters, are bankrolled by China and the Middle East. The third largest shareholder in Fox News' parent company News Corp. is an Arab sheikh. So you have to give our domestic traitors the upper hand in the fight against the president. Between their trillion dollar wars, horrific taxation policy and science and education policies that promise to make our rivals better than us at everything within 50 years, Republican Party is set to hand economic and hence geopolitical victory to the Chinese. A century before it would have happened otherwise.