They've watched our appeasement of Syria, Iran's agent in the Arab Levant -- sending our ambassador back to Syria even as it tightens its grip on Lebanon, supplies Hezbollah with Scuds, and intensifies its role as the pivot of the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance. The price for this ostentatious flouting of the U.S. and its interests? Ever more eager U.S. "engagement."
They've observed the administration's gratuitous slap at Britain over the Falklands, its contemptuous treatment of Israel, its undercutting of the Czech Republic and Poland, and its indifference to Lebanon and Georgia. And in Latin America, they see not just U.S. passivity as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez organizes his anti-American "Bolivarian" coalition while deepening military and commercial ties with Iran and Russia. They saw active U.S. support in Honduras for a pro-Chavez would-be dictator seeking unconstitutional powers in defiance of the democratic institutions of that country.
This is not just an America in decline. This is an America in retreat -- accepting, ratifying and declaring its decline, and inviting rising powers to fill the vacuum.
Nor is this retreat by inadvertence. This is retreat by design and, indeed, on principle. It's the perfect fulfillment of Obama's adopted Third World narrative of American misdeeds, disrespect and domination from which he has come to redeem us and the world. Hence his foundational declaration at the U.N. General Assembly last September that "No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation" (guess who's been the dominant nation for the last two decades?) and his dismissal of any "world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another." (NATO? The West?)
Given Obama's policies and principles, Turkey and Brazil are acting rationally. Why not give cover to Ahmadinejad and his nuclear ambitions? As the U.S. retreats in the face of Iran, China, Russia and Venezuela, why not hedge your bets? There's nothing to fear from Obama, and everything to gain by ingratiating yourself with America's rising adversaries. After all, they actually believe in helping one's friends and punishing one's enemies.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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