In his first book on Vietnam, David Halberstam argued that the Diem brothers were not fighting hard enough against the communists. I remember him telling a group at the Harvard Crimson at the time how the U.S. needed to replace the Diems in order for liberals to avoid a political backlash like that against the old China hands.
The idea that allies can cause you trouble is not totally without merit. The Cold War caused us to embrace some unsavory folks. Democratic administrations supported military takeovers in Brazil in 1964 and Greece in 1967, just as a Republican administration supported one in Chile in 1973.
But liberals tend to forget the first two examples and remain fixated on the third. They see history as moving inevitably and beneficially to the left and bemoan American alliances with what they see as retrograde right-wing regimes.
They want us to look more favorably on those like Chavez and Fidel Castro, who claim they are helping the poor. Somehow it is seen as progressive to cuddle up to those who attack America and to scorn those who have shown their friendship and common values over many years.
And so Obama, the object of so much adulation in Western Europe, seems to have had only the coolest of relations with its leaders. The candidate who spoke in Berlin is now the president with no sympathy for the leaders of peoples freed when the wall fell. They are seen as impediments to his goal of propitiating Vladimir Putin's Russia, where Joseph Stalin is now an honored hero.
Obama's concessions to Russia have not prevented Russia from watering down sanctions against Iran. And Obama's display of scorning Netanyahu has not gotten the Palestinians to sit down face-to-face with the Israelis, as Netanyahu has promised to do.
Obama proclaims that through persistence he can make the leaders of Iran, North Korea, Russia, China and the Palestinians see things our way. The evidence so far is that they are making him do things their way -- and that our friends are wondering whether it pays to be on America's side.