Victor Davis Hanson

The prestige of the United Nations suffers terribly from the erratic nature of the supposedly pro-UN Obama administration. We exceeded the resolutions of the UN on Libya; we never even sought them in Syria; and we are now undermining them over Iran.

Turkey, under increasingly Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Ergodan, is closer to the Obama administration than is Israel, America's best friend in the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi came to power in Egypt on assurances of American support -- before being removed by Egyptian generals for subverting the constitution.

It is not clear to Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, or even Australia and New Zealand that they are still firmly under the American defense umbrella. China often seems to remind -- and warn -- them of just that reality.

There are many reasons why America jumped off the tiger. After five years of near record budget deficits, we are struggling with the highest level of national debt as a percentage of GDP than at any time during the immediate postwar period .That dismal fact is known to both allies and enemies who expect the U.S. military to limp homeward.

Abroad too many states do not trust the word of an American president. Obama has misled over Benghazi, flipped and flopped over Syria and Egypt, and deceived the American people on the Affordable Care Act. When the American secretary of state has to assure the world that its proposed military action "will be unbelievably small" while the president is forced to explain that our military doesn't "do pinpricks," we appear hardly credible or formidable.

Obama himself seems unable to fathom the fallout from the NSA's tapping of German chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone, or from allowing Vladimir Putin to adjudicate the Syrian mess. It is unclear whether Obama has even appreciated the traditional U.S. role of world leadership. Or perhaps he feels America lacks either the moral assurance or material resources to continue to ride the global tiger.

Obama rightly senses that Americans certainly seem tired after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are reaching oil and gas independence from the Middle East and don't see it as central to our security. After the Arab Spring, and the rise and fall of dictators, Islamists and generals, things still stay mostly the same and beyond remedy by more American blood and treasure.

America does not seem to have any strong preferences for our old allies, free markets or democracies. If Obama wanted to change America's role in the world, he instead has changed the world itself.

Riding the tiger's back was always risky, but not as much as jumping off and allowing it to run wild. The world now wants someone to get back on -- but is unsure about who, when, how and at what cost.


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.