Raul Castro’s recent speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, victory comments by Hugo Chavez, and the latest from Ahmadinejad about Israel’s upcoming destruction-coupled together with the Bolton resignation, murmurs from the Iraqi Study Group, and the usual media declaration that Iraq is lost and Afghanistan close behind, suggests a general sense of American despair.
Add in the tremendous petrol revenues accruing to our enemies, continual US debt and trade imbalances, foreign oil dependence, and opportunistic anti-Americanism, and one gets the feeling that the Islamists, the new Latin American communists, and the always opportunistic Russians and Chinese believe that they can wait soon for new openings–not quite sure whether the media announcements of a U.S. adrift square with the concrete, visible and ongoing reality of a strong U.S. military, economy, and global cultural presence.
Yet if some think the strange alliance between the new Democratic Congressional majorities and old Republican realists will ameliorate some of this by urging direct talks with North Korea, Iran, and Syria, pressuring Israel, gravitating to a European approach to problems, or withdrawing from Iraq, they should remember the Carter administration’s experience with Iran, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Central America, and the Clinton response to the first World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers, the East African embassy bombings, and the USS Cole. Even more illuminating is to remember that the old appeasement of treating numerous enemies better than our few friends did not even win affection, but only outright contempt. I remember the visceral Iranian hatred for Jimmy Carter, and the worldwide ridicule of Bill Clinton, and sad US shuttles of the 1990s to beseech Assad and Arafat.
So we are in strange time, in which we see the known failures of the past offered up as correctives for the perceived failures of the present. In response, what the administration needs to do is to nominate someone from the uncompromising Bolton stamp who pursues UN reform, rethink tactics in Iraq to secure the country, renew diplomatic efforts to isolate Iran and foster internal change, continue the investigations and pressures on Syria, and craft an energy policy that collapses the world price of petroleum and with it the juice that powers a Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Putin, et al.