Oil-rich Russia -- deprived of its communist-era empire -- seems to find lost imperial prestige and influence by being for everything that the U.S. is against. That translates into selling nuclear expertise and material to Iran, providing weapons to provocative states such as Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, and bullying neighbors over energy supplies.
Closer to home, Mexico has become a strange sort of friend. It devolves daily into a more corrupt and violent place than Iraq or Pakistan. The fossilized leadership in Mexico City shows no interest in reforming, either by opening its economy or liberalizing its political institutions.
Instead, Mexico's very survival for now rests on cynically exporting annually a million of its impoverished and unhappy citizens to America. More interested in money than its own people, the Mexican government counts on the more than $20 billion in remittances that return to the country each year.
But American citizens are tired of picking up the tab to subsidize nearly 15 million poor illegal aliens. The growing hostility between the two countries is reminiscent of 19th-century tensions across the Rio Grande.
How is America reacting to these back-to-the-future changes?
Politically divided, committed to two wars, in a deep recession, insolvent and still stunned by the financial meltdown of 2008, our government seems paralyzed. As European socialism implodes, for some reason a new statist U.S. government wants to copy failure by taking over ever more of the economy and borrowing trillions more dollars to provide additional entitlements.
As panicky old allies look for American protection, we talk of slashing our defense budget. In apologetic fashion, we spend more time appeasing confident enemies than buttressing worried friends.
Instead of finishing our border fence and closing the southern border, we are suing a state that is trying to enforce immigration laws that the federal government will not apply. And as sectarianism spreads abroad, we at home still pursue the failed salad bowl and caricature the once-successful American melting pot.
But just as old problems return, so do equally old solutions. Once-stodgy ideas like a free-market economy, strong defense, secure borders and national unity are suddenly appearing fresh and wise.