The Ripon Forum

Volume 49, No. 3

September 2015

In this edition

By on September 10, 2015

by LOU ZICKAR

As we mark another anniversary of 9/11, one can’t help but compare the world we live in today with the world we left behind 14 years ago. The terrorist attacks shattered the sense of invincibility that had built up in America following the end of the Cold War. In the years since the attacks, that sense has been further punctured by our seeming inability to shape world events. The rise of ISIS. The expansion of China. The very real danger that Russia poses to the West. With the possible exception of China, these threats were unimaginable on September 10, 2001. And yet today, they represent perhaps the three greatest challenges we face around the world

We take a look at these challenges and these threats in this latest edition of THE RIPON FORUM. Leading our coverage is an essay by Senator Ron Johnson, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European and Regional Security Cooperation. In his essay, he writes about President Obama’s failed attempt to “reset” U.S. relations with Russia after he took office, and Vladimir Putin’s push for power in the ensuing years. He also offers up this warning about the direction the Russian President is taking his country. “As Putin advances,” the Senator writes, “the Obama administration continues to talk about offering Putin ‘off ramps.’ To prevent even greater destabilization in Europe, the West must realize that Putin isn’t looking for ‘off ramps.’ He’s only biding his time and looking for the next ‘on ramp.’”

Johnson’s warning is echoed by William Pomeranz, the Deputy Director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. Pomeranz writes that Russia “has been put on a wartime footing,” and adds that, “Putin can’t back down from any of these policies without losing face.” But Pomeranz also argues that Putin’s time may be running out due to his country’s deepening economic concerns. “What ails the Russian economy? Take your pick. Up until now, Putin has always made sure that pensions keep pace with inflation and are paid in full. Now, because of the collapse in the price of oil and deep recession, that type of money is simply not available.”

Russia’s economy may be collapsing, but, according to Nenad Pejic, their PR machine is in full gear. Pejic serves as Editor-in-Chief of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In this role, he not only leads the effort to counter Russian propaganda, but understands the difficulty – and importance of – making sure the truth is known. “As Russia attacks the post-World War II security structure,” Pejic writes, “RFE/RL’s task has less to do with outsmarting censors – although new Russian laws are constantly expanding authorities’ power to police content – than cutting through a haze of lies and absurdities designed to blur fact and fiction and overwhelm reason.”

In addition to examining the threat posed by Russia, the latest edition of the FORUM also looks at the President’s strategy to destroy ISIS, which, writes Paul Salem of the Middle East Institute, is stuck in stalemate. Patrick Cronin of the Center for a New American Security writes about the challenge facing America in the South China Sea, a region which lies at the “nexus” of the global economy, and one, Cronin argues, where the U.S. must stand up to China’s increasingly aggressive territorial claims. And in a pair of essays, Gordon Gray and Rachel Hoff discuss the U.S. defense budget, while Patrick Jephson reflects on how the United States is viewed abroad.

In other essays: Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute writes about “A Lesson in Hope from Dharavi” and looks at how free market principles have transformed India over the past 20 years; Senator John Thune and Congressman Mike Bishop write about “Tackling the Troublesome Tax Code” and legislation they have authored to do just that; Trey Grayson writes about how one community in Kentucky is addressing “The New Epidemic” of heroin abuse; and, William McKenzie reflects on his tenure as Editor of THE RIPON FORUM and the accomplishments of “Ripon in the Reagan Years.” And in our latest Ripon Profile, Larry Hogan discusses his first year as Governor of Maryland and his courageous battle to defeat cancer.

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of the FORUM, and encourage you to contact us with any thoughts or comments you may have.

Lou Zickar
Editor of THE RIPON FORUM
louzickar@riponsociety.org

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