In 1980, after Soviet tanks rumbled into Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter experienced an epiphany. The former Georgia governor, who in 1977 liberated the U.S. from its "inordinate fear of communism" and pecked Brezhnev on both cheeks, declaring that he and the Soviet leader "shared similar dreams and aspirations," was shocked by this naked aggression. "... The action of the Soviets," he admitted, "made a more dramatic change in my opinion of what the Soviets' ultimate goals are than anything they've done the previous time I've been in office."
Some people are slow learners. Leave aside the 20 million dead under Stalin, the subjugation of Eastern Europe, the Gulag, and the show trials. In just the previous decade, the Soviets had tried and jailed Natan Sharansky and Alexander Ginsburg for the crime of attempting to hold the U.S.S.R. to the Helsinki human rights agreement; imprisoned countless dissidents in psychiatric "hospitals"; supported a number of terrorist groups worldwide, maintained an elaborate disinformation campaign to spread defamatory lies about the U.S.; brought the world to the brink of nuclear conflict over the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East; and armed and supplied the deadly North Korean, North Vietnamese, Somali, and Ethiopian regimes.
The liberal tendency to believe that international relations are a form of social work is unchanged. Just as liberals like Carter believed in the 1970s that tensions with the Soviets were the result of misunderstandings and "paranoia" on our part, liberals today believe that international tensions are the result of lack of respect for Islam or bellicosity on our part. Liberals are keen to bolster the self-esteem of our enemies. If we were not so provocative (didn't Bush label Iran, North Korea, and Iraq the "axis of evil"?) the world would be a more tractable place. If we demonstrate humility, our former foes will meet us halfway.