Victor Davis Hanson

To the Japanese, he touched on the brutal way America ended World War II.

To the world at large, Obama apologized for Guantanamo Bay, the war on terror, and some activities of the CIA.

To Latin America, he rued our past insensitive diplomacy.

To the G-20, he lamented America's prior rude behavior.

To the Muslim world, he confessed to wrong policies and past mistakes.

To Europe, he apologized for our occasionally strained relations.

To the United Nations, he said he felt bad about America's unilateral behavior.

In addition, Obama has bowed to Saudi autocrats and Chinese dictators. In morally equivalent fashion, an Obama subordinate brought up to human-rights violator China the new Arizona immigration law. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that we would be neutral in a new and growing Falklands Island dispute. And America has put Israel on notice that the old close relationship is changing.

Turkey is growing increasingly anti-American. A newly aggressive Russia is beaming that we have caved on a number of contentious issues.

The Japanese are distancing themselves from America. British, French and German leaders are increasingly wary of the United States. The Mexican president criticizes Arizona from the White House lawn.

War is now more, not less, likely in the Middle East. In Latin America, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela are as hostile to the U.S. as ever. Brazil is now seeking to assert new authority contrary to U.S. policies.

The lesson?

Even little words and gestures still matter in high-stakes international relations. Bad actors look hard for even the smallest sign that they might get away with aggression without consequences.

A deferential and apologetic President Obama may think he is making those abroad like us --and he may be right in some cases. But if history is any guide, aggressive powers are paying close attention to these seemingly insignificant signs Soon, they may turn their wild ideas into concrete aggression -- once they convince themselves that America neither wants to nor is able to stop them.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.