Suddenly, allies such as democratic Colombia, Israel and India cannot count on our support in their rivalries with aggressive neighbors, while overt enemies such as Iran, Hamas and North Korea wonder whether a brief window has opened for aggrandizement without repercussions.
In the Middle East, Israel is being tested as never before by Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and now Turkey -- under the cloud of a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. Apparently, they all think that suddenly the U.S. is no longer Israel's protector, and the opportunity for upping the ante should not be missed.
North Korea warns that Seoul might be "a sea of flame," while jittery Japan cannot seem to stabilize its government. Turkey is starting to sound more like the old Ottoman sultanate eager for a showdown with the West than a NATO ally.
Along with Brazil and Russia, Turkey is seeking to water down American efforts to stop Iranian nuclear proliferation. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez now insults an obsequious Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as much as he once did a tough-talking George W. Bush. In fact, the more we reached out in 2009 to Iran, Russia, Syria, Turkey and Venezuela, the more they all now seem hostile -- suggesting magnanimity is often seen by such governments as appeasement that in turn encourages aggression.
A cash-flush China in turn wonders why it should finance record U.S. borrowing for entitlements it cannot afford for its own people. We seem to gratuitously offend our oldest and best ally, the British, in novel ways each week. The European Union is in a meltdown, and many of its key members suspect that America no longer sees itself as a leader of shared Western interests. Or that if it does, it is now too broke to do much anyway.
In all these crises, trashing George W. Bush, reaching out to enemies and taking friends for granted is not proving to be a coherent foreign policy. Instead, it is a prescription for a disaster not seen since 1979, when another messianic American president thought he could charm the world by making our enemies like us.
And we all know how that ended.