As we face simultaneous crises, Washington remains completely disconnected from what Americans want.

by Will Bardenwerper, Responsible Statecraft

In the Art of War, Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said, “if you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” This nugget of wisdom is as perceptive today as it was over 2,000 years ago. And it does not bode well for America.

We clearly don’t know our adversaries. We’ve been caught flat-footed, repeatedly, in recent years, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the almost instantaneous collapse of the Afghanistan government that we’d spent two decades supporting, to the recent Hamas attacks destabilizing the Middle East.

ukraine destruction

The biggest question mark of all is if and when China might transition from nibbling on the margins of Asia to taking a big bite in the form of Taiwan.

Perhaps even more worrisome, and far less excusable, is the fact that we don’t know ourselves. In a world growing less stable by the day, the disconnect between our policymakers in Washington and the American public is frightening. While prominent national security experts of both parties seem to be coalescing around maximalist approaches toward the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, and lobbying for a more confrontational stance toward China, the American public appears largely tuned out, instead focused on challenges closer to home, like paying bills, raising children, and navigating polarizing domestic politics.

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