Consider the world situation:
A Communist superpower on the Pacific Rim challenges the United States around the world.
China’s economic and military might continue to expand under the leadership of its most powerful ruler since Mao.
Taiwan is proving particularly vexatious, as America increases its security commitment on the island to deter a potential invasion of Beijing, while trying to avoid catastrophic war.
Kim’s brutal dictatorship in North Korea continues to threaten South Korea, Japan and the United States, while tormenting its own people.
Russia has experienced a resurgence over the past decade, invading states of its near abroad, expanding its influence in the Middle East and Latin America, and even using information warfare to influence US elections.
The Kremlin is developing a new generation of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles as US leaders, including Joe Biden, seek to preserve a fragile arms control regime with Moscow.
US and Europe face tensions over oil and gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, as Washington pressures NATO allies to increase defense spending.
In war-torn Afghanistan, neighboring states maneuver to exert influence and the United States faces difficult choices and questions about its involvement in the conflict, as many Afghan refugees seek to flee their countries .
Pakistan is playing a double game, cooperating with the United States in a way, while pursuing a militant Islamist agenda, supporting terrorist groups and hiding its nuclear program.
The Iranian revolutionary regime proclaims its hostility to America while engaging in destabilizing activities across the Middle East. The White House is trying a combination of incentives, negotiations and pressure to change Iran’s behavior.
Israel is building a new strategic partnership with former Arab adversaries, while trying to ensure that its deadly enemy does not develop a nuclear bomb.
Closer to home, a left-wing government in Mexico is trying to balance its complicated relations with the United States and the unrest of its Central American neighbors to the south.
In Nicaragua, the Ortega regime becomes increasingly authoritarian, while Daniel Ortega deepens his ties with the Kremlin. Popular discontent in Havana puts pressure on the ruling Communist dictatorship in Cuba.
Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau is trying to balance frictions over trade, energy and the environment with his most important ally, the United States.
Protectionist sentiments in America are pushing Washington to restrict free trade and sanction violators, friends and enemies.
Rising inflation weighs on central bankers and threatens the US and global economies.
The Pentagon faces budget constraints as it tries to modernize its weapon platforms to counter our Communist competitor, while meeting acute readiness and manpower needs. Critics point out that the Air Force’s most widely used strategic bomber, the B-52, first entered service in 1952.
The American people, demoralized by America’s recent failures in our nation’s longest war, have little appetite for deploying combat troops in any new military intervention.
(All is not so gloomy. The United States still leads the world in technology and innovation, thanks to companies such as Apple, Intel, and Microsoft, and advantages in areas such as information technology and semiconductor design. But that advantage seems to be waning, especially with growing competition from Asia.)
On the political scene, the Democratic Party, despite control of the White House and both houses of Congress, is plagued by internal divisions between its progressive and moderate wings.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party remains divided by the controversies of the GOP’s last elected president who left political chaos in its wake, as the party establishment and insurgent wings vie for control.
But maybe the change is underway. In the election earlier this month, the American people voted forâ¦ Ronald Reagan as the next president.
You read that right: every word above describes the world in November 1980, when Reagan was elected. Yet every word also describes the world of November 2021.
Yes, some details vary: in 1980 the Communist superpower on the Pacific Rim was the USSR, today it is China. The Chinese leader was then Deng Xiaoping; today Xi Jinping. Israel’s enemy then was Iraq, now Iran. Joe Biden as a young senator and now as an older president pushed arms control with Moscow. America’s longest war then was Vietnam, now Afghanistan. The Canadian Prime Minister was then Pierre, now his son Justin. The former GOP chairman was then Nixon, now Trump. Etc.
Why are these parallels important?
First, the persistence of many of these challenges should remind us that in our fallen world political successes are elusive. National security policy making is often simply about managing problems to prevent them from escalating. This contrasts with our usual binary of either trying to solve political problems or ignoring them altogether. Christians will not enjoy a perfect world on this side of glory.
Second, with inspired leadership, some the problems can be solved. President Reagan envisioned and then realized the defeat of Soviet communism and the peaceful end of the Cold War. Christians should not despair that just because our world today looks bleak, especially the challenge from China, a good result is not possible. It remains to be seen whether a visionary new president will emerge in the years to come. History, written by the divine hand, must both punish and support our hopes.