Something like a new Cold War is getting hotter even if the United States seems in confused retreat. As evidence of aggression vs. acquiescence, listen to what Sen. Ted Cruz. R.-Texas, asked three top security officials at a congressional hearing without getting an answer.

He wanted to know why there had been no sanctions against China for massive hacking of tens of thousands of computers likely hurting the U.S. in endless ways.

An enemy of zipped lips himself, Cruz forthrightly told these officials that the lackadaisical reaction was “showing weakness to China and weakness to Russia.” America, he said, was thereby inviting more aggression and more cyberattacks,

Earlier in the hearing, questioners focused on Russia, and President Joe Biden has in fact exacted penalties for such moves as interference in our 2020 elections. Later, at a Geneva conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the president issued warnings that the United States would retaliate if Putin did nothing to stop cyberattacks of ambiguously specified kinds coming from Russia. Since that redline statement, attacks have been coming hard and heavy with a soft and lightweight reaction as Russia says it cannot control criminal groups, which it can.

By way of leadership contrast, Putin recently explained to the world that Russia had developed the first-ever hypersonic missiles that can easily drop nuclear bombs anywhere on the planet within 30 minutes. They will be “unstoppable,” he said, and most will likely be aimed at the United States. Our own failure to modernize weapons is frightening. Officers have therefore rearranged a diminished military budget to better serve the weaponry cause. Don’t count on hypersonic success.

Singing a song similar to Putin’s, President XI Jinping of China recently said that no foreign force was ever going to “bully, oppress or enslave us” again.

China, which deserves a gold medal for bullying, oppression and enslavement, has lately emphasized that it is going to take back the thriving island of Taiwan still legally its own. Analysts say China would have major advantages if the United States intervened, not least because of weapon deficiencies.

Dictator Xi also has pronounced that China is on “an irreversible historic course” to become the world’s “biggest superpower.”

Leave China and Russia for a minute and visit Afghanistan, from which al-Qaida terrorists arose to assault New York City and Washington, D.C., on 9/11. The US military rushed across the ocean to wipe out al-Qaida, which shriveled up and is attempting a comeback. The U.S. also ended the Taliban’s hateful, hurtful, totalitarian government, but did not eliminate key players who hid out in Pakistan.

We hung around for 20 years, losing 2,312 military personnel, but were never very sure of what we were up to, according to a Washington Post series. We indulged in nation building that was mostly futile, although we did help construct a peaceful if fragile government before Biden said we were departing.

Not a few forecasters speculate that the Taliban will take over, coalesce with other demon nations, inflict misery on the innocent and recultivate 9/11-style tactics. Expert advice ranges from U.S. use of airpower to helping Afghanistan financially.

Finally, let’s visit famished Iran, which is spending billions on a nuclear-weapons future. In a nuclear deal bypassing the constitutionally required treaty process, President Barack Obama and friends ineptly agreed that Iran should keep the basic means of making nuclear weapons, keep testing missiles and keep funding terrorism. His successor ended the mess, restoring sanctions, and the successor’s successor wants to restart the mess, restoring most of the deal.

Iran wants to leave it to the United Nations about whether we would ever reinstitute sanctions again, and look at what is coming: a newly elected Iranian president named Ebrahim Raisi, who, in 1988, was part of a small government gang that hanged some 5,000 Iranian citizens who were not politically correct.

He will be tough, and, at the very least, we must listen to those understanding that gentleness in return does not preserve peace.

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