Which is the reason we talk and point fingers. Our leaders, Republican, as well as Democratic, if truth be known, paint no precise picture of what America should worry about and what it should want done. The world easily picks up on what goes on. The Russians give asylum to Edward Snowden, knowing we don't do anything hurtful in response, beyond cancelling another Obama-Putin chinwag.
The U.S. won't do military exercises this year with the Egyptians?! Golly! How do they stand it?
Historic parallels can be overdone. It was fashionable for some time following World War II to equate "softness" toward the Soviets with the self-deceit Britain and France practiced in dealings with Hitler before World War II. Invoking such a parallel today would be hard. We have no one Hitler. We have harrying us instead a multitude of international screwballs -- including Islamic terrorists whose constitutional rights seem to concern us more than their capacity to do harm.
One human reality endures: In international affairs, the weak and confused, rather than the strong and determined, get hit the hardest. America isn't precisely weak. Confused, though -- about the legitimate uses of power, about the virtues of our own country and system, about the intentions of our enemies! That's America, circa 2013. And not a very comfortable place either from which to look out on a world that, as ever, fears only the fearless.