December 30, 2021

This is normally the time of year when people arrive at and announce their New Year’s resolutions.  It’s a pretty natural topic for a blog.

We’re taking a bit of a different tack at it.  We’ve been thinking – “What’s the biggest thing affecting our state and country in coming days – and is there anything we can do about it?”

Of course, the newest Omicron variant of COVID is all over the news and the varying ways different levels of government are addressing that.  The news is so pervasive in covering COVID that other important topics appear to be overlooked.

Many liberals would say climate change is probably the biggest thing facing us.  Our Carolina Partnership for Reform poll taken in late November said the economy, and more specifically, inflation, is the most important topic on a majority of people’s minds in our state.

Steps must be taken to get inflation under control – absolutely.  Government spending is a runaway train with seemingly no conductor in charge.

But in our opinion, right now, foreign policy is our biggest threat – specifically the aggression we are seeing from both China and Russia.  Russia continues to threaten eastern Europe as it lines up troops on the Ukrainian border.  China threatens our ally Taiwan and continues to build up in the South China Sea.  Not only are they taking physical steps that should concern us, their rhetoric has become more and more belligerent.

What’s happened?  The weakness and fragile nature of the Biden presidency in so many areas has increased the vulnerability of our country.  Russia and China appear to be testing our absence of leadership.  And the debacle that occurred in the execution of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer opened the door for the world to see just how weak America had become on the world stage.

The seriousness of this testing, and our country’s reaction, is alarming.

What really caught our attention several weeks ago was an interview FOX NEWS reporter Neal Cavuto did with former CIA Director and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, asking Panetta about the testing America is facing from China’s President Xi and from Russia’s Putin.

Considering Panetta’s past political connections – serving as White House Chief of Staff and OMB Director under President Clinton and CIA Director and Secretary of Defense under President Obama, his grave concern for the current president’s lack of strong leadership in sending clear signals and standing up to China and Russia’s aggression greatly increased our trepidation for our foreign policy going forward.

What really hit home in reading this article was thinking that if Leon Panetta – who should be an ally of the President – is thinking this way, what’s really going on must be bad, bad, bad.  And it appears there are no signs things are getting any better.

Ultimately, we are seeing in real time the critical importance of leadership in government, and as we’ve said before, we’re so grateful for the strong leadership we see in the N.C. General Assembly on the important issues facing our state.  We encourage folks to take a closer look at the international news concerning China and Russia that is becoming more and more important.

Here’s the full text of the interview:

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, there’s one thing I think that is in common, is — and it’s that both of them, to some extent, are testing the United States, and determining whether or not we’re going to stand by our word with regards to the lines that neither Russia or China can’t cross.

So, Russia has been doing this for a while, Putin has been doing this for a while, putting troops into the Ukraine. And he’s doing it again. I think it’s important for the United States to make clear to Putin that that line should not be crossed.

And the same thing is true with regards to China. I know the president and Xi had a conversation and a meeting last night and talked about a number of issues. I’m sure that President Biden hopefully made clear that — with regards to China, that there are lines that cannot be crossed either.

We have got to show strength now, because, frankly, both of these adversaries have tried to take advantage of the United States when they considered our leadership weak.

CAVUTO: Now, did they come to that and get that view reinforced with the collapse in Afghanistan?

PANETTA: Well, I think they’re — again, I think they’re testing it. They’re testing it because of what they saw happen in Afghanistan. They’re testing it because of the way the submarine deal went down with regards to France, because, frankly, I think the thing they worry about the most is that the United States can, in fact, develop alliances to confront both China and Russia.

And, very frankly, I think that is the strongest position we can take on not just the United States, but working with our allies, working with NATO, obviously, in Europe to confront Russia, working with Australia, working with South Korea and the ASEAN countries to confront China, because the fact is, neither China or Russia have allies.

They don’t like alliances. And that’s the one thing that could be in our favor.

CAVUTO: Our view has always been over the years, Secretary, through multiple administrations that the Chinese need us more than we need them, that, if they were to get too provocative and act on these provocations, they’d only harm themselves, and they had too much at stake with trade with the U.S.

But I’m reminded that England and Germany were trading with each other right up until it was war. So, are we giving ourselves too much of a pass here thinking that this can’t happen because too much economically is at stake?

PANETTA: I’ll tell you, Neil, we shouldn’t take anything for granted with China — with regards to China.

I think President Xi has just extended his term. He’s going to go through 2035. He’s also planning for China to be the world leader, to replace the United States as a world leader. He thinks we’re in decline. He thinks we’re weak.

He’s investing not only in his military, in his economy. He’s investing tremendously in new technology, artificial intelligence, in quantum, as well as robotics. And all of these are investments to basically put China in a leading position as we go to the future.

The United States can’t take that for granted. We are going to have to invest not just in our economy. We’re going to have to invest a lot more in technology, particularly on artificial intelligence and other areas, in order to ensure particularly that our defense capability reflects that technological capability that China’s developing.

If we’re going to compete with China, we have got to invest to make sure we stay ahead of the game.

CAVUTO: Secretary, we have sent a signal, it’s not very black and white, and it’s not been very clear, out of the administration that, if Taiwan were attacked by China, we would defend Taiwan.

But there’s a gray line with islands that are administered by Taiwan that are not technically Taiwan, and that, if China were to try to militarize those islands, or take over those islands, as it has so many through the South China Sea, that we would look the other way.

Would we?

PANETTA: Neil, I think the best thing that the United States can do right now is to develop a strong deterrence.

We have got to send a signal to China that, if they try anything like that, they’re going to pay a heavy price. And what that means is that we have got to be able to deploy our military into position in the Pacific. We have got to be able to deploy our forces in a way that makes clear to China that we’re not going anyplace, we’re going to be there.

And we have to build strong alliances. Our allies have to send exactly the same signal to China that we are, which is that they’re not going to stand back…

CAVUTO: But they’re not. But they’re not. They’re not doing that.

PANETTA: … if they try to get into Taiwan.

I’m sorry?

CAVUTO: I’m sorry. I interrupted you rudely.

But they’re not sending those signals. I mean, if you think our response has been a little haphazard, their response has been virtually nonexistent.

So I’m just wondering if that’s what the Russians and the Chinese are sensing, that there’s discord among the entire Western world how to respond to this.

PANETTA: Well, the most important thing President Biden can do at this point in time is make very clear that there is no discord and that we all have a common message, both to China and to Russia, that we will not tolerate aggression by either country.

That has to be a very clear signal. And we have to back it up.