Death by a Thousand Cuts?

Russia, Iran, and China vs. the U.S.

Stephen Yearwood
3 min readOct 25, 2023
Photo by Miikka Luotio on Unsplash

Russia continues, with help from Iran and China (and North Korea) to wage war in Ukraine. Russia and Iran — itself and through Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis — can increase the level of conflict in the Middle East at any time, in various places, and of late China has positioned warships in the area. China has the capacity, regarding Taiwan and in the waters of the western Pacific, to sustain a low level of conflict and the constant threat of a much greater conflagration while challenging the economic and financial hegemony of the U.S. around the globe.

The U.S. deems itself to be compelled to respond to all such provocations and to any other threats to ‘the world order’. Within it the U.S. is the most powerful nation, economically and militarily, in the history of civilization.

Is the U.S. rich enough and powerful enough to take on all three of those nations acting in concert through an incessant series of incisions that are intended to drain our power over time? That does seem to have become the question as those nations have become an unexpected threesome in global geopolitics.

To my mind, the only issue is whether our way of life — maximum liberty under the rule of law with a democratic political process — can survive in a world dominated by authoritarian nations. If it can, we can conduct a tactical withdrawal from our role as the primary protector of that world order. Personally, I am convinced that it cannot. We therefore find that we are in a fight to the finish against enemies of justice itself.

In any conflict the high ground is always important. Whichever side can be in possession of it has a definite advantage.

In the end this conflict will come down to values. There, we absolutely do have the high ground. Human beings do prefer freedom to oppression and self-governance to tyranny: justice to injustice.

We do have to acknowledge, though, that we are in danger of losing that position. We are beset by confusion and doubt.

The ultimate determinant of victory will be the internal strength of the nations involved. Our values are our strength, but at present we are seeing the connection between those values and our relations with one another in this nation dissolve before our eyes. It is therefore of the utmost importance in this conflict that we make ourselves open to any adjustment that would strengthen the fabric of our society by furthering the realization of our values.*

We can rest assured that people would never prefer living under the thumb of an Ayatollah or a would-be tsar or contemporary Mandarin emperor, but it takes effort and even a willingness for sacrifice to resist tyranny, and the rewards for doing that have to be real and clear. We in the U.S. (and all people around the world who share our way of life) must acknowledge that the benefits, material and immaterial, that are so real and clear for us have come and continue to come at the expense of other peoples. If, though, people in any nation can be offered immediate material well-being** along with freedom and self-governance, then there is no nation nor any combination of nations on Earth that could possibly resist the force of our values.


*such as “Alright, Already” (here in Medium, but not behind the paywall)

**See “Alright, Already” (above) — the last section, about the economy.



Stephen Yearwood

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid: M.A. in political economy (where philosophy and economics intersect) with a focus in money/distributive justice