World War II seemed to be a great, earth-shaking event in the West. Old powers, already crumbling from World War I, collapsed. New orders aligned. Eastern powers went behind an Iron Curtain. The British-American alliance cemented.
So too did the colonies of the European super powers change. Most became independent nations. The Africans found their voices, though sometimes in a mixed cacophony of nationalist voices. The Middle East took shape as independent powers, played by American and Soviet chess masters, laid claim to land and oil.
Eastern Asia, however, locked into place. A collapse and realignment in Europe overshadowed China, Japan and Korea, largely freezing their interests on the map. They too, like the European powers, had colonial and expansionist interests and rivalries that took shape long before the United States or many current European countries were even fixtures on the map.
World War II and its aftermath largely froze the players on the Asian board. Certainly, they had internal struggles, but between the players little happened. Historic struggles were overshadowed by the Cold War forces, with communist tension provoking both the Korean and Vietnam wars. Because of Washington's increasingly benign neglect, however, Asian nationalist tension may be on the rise.
China, which for 2,000 years has oscillated between indifference and brutality as a hegemon, has declared an expansive air defense identification zone, insisting that foreign planes flying through the ADIZ declare themselves. The area covers territory held by Japan, but claimed by China. With China speaking loudly and carrying a small stick, Japan is in the middle of a national debate on picking back up sticks.
Constitutionally pacifist after World War II, Japan's USC-educated Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is a nationalist. He supports rearming Japan through revisions of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. Article 9 of Japan's constitution, a byproduct of Japan losing World War II, prohibits the nation from building an armed military with the potential to make war.
Japan's sudden reconsideration of its military and talk that it might eventually go nuclear has given South Korea heartburn. South Korea still refuses to call the Sea of Japan by that name, choosing to call it the "East Sea" or "Sea of Korea." Given the long history between Korea and Japan and Japan annexing Korea in the 20th century, South Korea does not like the idea of a militarized Japan. Meanwhile, the North Koreans have been launching missiles over the Sea of Japan — ruffling everyone else's feathers.
All this comes at a time when it is no longer really a secret that North Korea has gone nuclear. The multilateral and bilateral negotiations and blackmail between North Korea and the United States did no good to stop the Hermit Kingdom. Now the United States wishes to cut a deal with Iran. The deal would allow Iran to continue its enriched uranium program.
In the Iranian deal, Iran would not be able to build nuclear weapons from its program. Unsurprisingly, the International Atomic Energy Agency would not be able to regularly inspect enough to ensure nuclear weapons are not being created.
Saudi Arabia, angered by the deal, intends to take matters into its own hands. Israel too intends to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. With Pakistan now a nuclear nation, it is only a matter of time before Saudi Arabia goes nuclear through an oil-for-arms deal. Should Israel strike Iran first, things could escalate more quickly.
All this comes as the Obama Administration conveys an impression to the world that President Obama is cool with a new world order undermining the existing, largely American-led order. His benign neglect is more a reflection of his worldview that the world would be better off if the United States were just one of many nations instead of the world's last super power. Other world powers interpret the Obama Administration's foreign policy not as a recalibration or even less interventionist, but as a joke.
Those sleeping well at night because America is turning inward, away from the world, may soon find themselves in a global conflict caused by American benign neglect. And this time, we may not win.
Erick Erickson is the Editor-in-Chief of RedState.com. To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.