An axis of enemies

Arthur Herman:

With Russian tanks now presiding over the dismemberment of the Republic of Georgia, can a lame-duck Bush administration -- weary from its long drubbing by critics over Iraq and eyeing the exit door -- rise to the challenge Russia has chosen to pose to the Free World?

To understand the nature of this challenge, consider that the distance between Baghdad and Tbilisi is barely 578 miles, less than the distance between New York City and Chicago. Iraq and Georgia, both of which have democratic governments, are sandwiched between Iran and Russia, two of the most authoritarian governments in the world. Russia has been collaborating with Iran to strengthen the latter's nuclear program and its military. It is also steadily arming Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez.

Russia's invasion of Georgia came exactly one month after Iran test-fired its Shahab III intermediate ballistic missile in order to intimidate neighbors like Israel and Iraq, and two weeks after Mr. Chávez traveled to Moscow to formalize a "Strategic Alliance" with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. Meanwhile, Iran's proxies remain the principal threat to peace in Iraq -- while on the other side of the world, evidence mounts of Mr. Chávez's links to the terrorist group FARC, which threatens neighboring Colombia.

Coincidence? Iraq, Georgia and Colombia are battlegrounds in a new kind of international conflict that will define our geopolitical future. This conflict pits the U.S. and the West against an emerging axis of oil-rich dictatorships who are working together to push back against the liberalizing trends of globalization. One of their prime objectives is toppling or undermining neighboring, pro-Western democracies.

The term "axis" has been overused in recent years, and in misleading contexts. But Russia, Iran and Venezuela are acting very much as Japan, Italy and Germany did in the 1930s, when each took advantage of each other's aggressive moves to extend their own regional power at the expense of liberal democracy -- and, as a result, propelling the world to the brink of war.

The chessboard of traditional competitive geopolitics is back with a vengeance. Russia is the principal source for Iran's nuclear weapons program as well as the principal obstacle to international sanctions. Between them, Mr. Putin and Tehran's mullahs clearly aim to control access to every major source of fossil energy from the western end of the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. The third player in this new axis, Venezuela's President Chávez, hopes for an oil and natural gas monopoly over the natural resources of neighbors like pro-Chávez satellites Bolivia and Ecuador.

All three dictatorships are flush with cash thanks to rising oil prices; all three are bent on regional domination. All three openly celebrate a model of government that is authoritarian and monolithic in opposition to Western pluralism, market-oriented economies and representative democracy. All three run economies built on mafia-style crony capitalism. All three denounce U.S. "imperialism," and evidently hope that the 2008 election will help to bolster their geopolitical plans.

...

The shifting axis of enemies is a result of our successes and failures. The failures that have boosted these enemies are primarily caused by the Democrats policies of strangling energy of all forms in the US. They have weakened us and the west and lifted up these new enemies to positions they do not deserve. The Democrat energy polices are the best friends these enemies could have in the US.

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