If any one of these red lines, let alone all of them together, get crossed, we will rue the day that we did not use these last five years to make our own economy more resilient. After all, in sports, timeouts are when you catch your breath, try to make sense of what is coming at you at high speed, figure out what has been working and what has not, design a play to win the game and then collaborate on its execution.
Future historians will surely ask how we in America could not agree on sensible near-term infrastructure investment — to upgrade our country with cheap money — paired with a long-term package of tax reforms and spending cuts, phased in gradually as the economy improves, so we have a much sturdier balance sheet to survive any geopolitical storms. We’re now driving around without a bumper and a spare tire, just when the world seems poised to turn into a crash ’n’ smash derby. (Kudos to President Obama for still trying for a Grand Bargain. Will the G.O.P. step up?)
But historians will also ask China: What were you thinking? When will you realize that whatever is bad for America is not necessarily good for you? Will it take South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan all getting nuclear weapons? China controls food and fuel going into North Korea. It could end the freak show there anytime it wants, by cutting off both and opening its border to refugees. Yes, it is worried about a united, nuclear Korea and a flood of refugees, but America could help facilitate a united, nonnuclear Korea and dealing with refugees.