Victor Davis Hanson

Given Kerry's loud global-warming sermonizing and the administration's serial threats, bad actors abroad probably believe that burning too much coal is more likely to anger the U.S. than shooting protestors or gassing enemies.

After the Obama administration finally assembled a coalition of allies to impose tough sanctions against Iran, and after the trade embargoes began to bite the theocracy, Obama, without warning his coalition, abruptly relaxed those embargoes and entered into talks with the Iranians.

The message? Imposing sanctions is a difficult business. When they finally work, they are likely to be abruptly lifted if the squeezed nation sends out a few peace feelers and wants to feign appearing reasonable.

The U.S. has now shot so many rhetorical arrows that its quiver of indignation is empty -- and the world's troublemakers may know it. An administration that ignores almost all of its own Obamacare deadlines surely cannot expect others to abide by any timetables it sets abroad.

There may be no viable solutions to the violence in Syria or Ukraine. The messes in Egypt and Libya, the Chinese provocations to their neighbors, the North Korean lunacy and the spiraling violence in Venezuela certainly have no easy answers. But not knowing quite what to do is not the same as knowing certainly what not to do.

Although the U.S. alone seems to honor its promised deadlines of withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, the world's aggressors sense that the Obama administration's bluster is predictably to be followed by more bluster. Therefore, they have decided to risk aggrandizements while they can. In the mind of Vladimir Putin, today Ukraine, tomorrow the Baltic States or Eastern Europe. For the Iranian theocrats, if chemical WMD are OK in Syria, why not nuclear WMD in Iran? For China, when Japan backs off, why shouldn't Taiwan, South Korea or the Philippines?

Such a seemingly insignificant loss of deterrence is how wars often start -- when an aggressive nation bets that loud words signal that consequences will never follow. So it is emboldened to up the ante to try something even riskier.

America's step-over line/deadline/red line outrage is long past monotonous and empty -- and the result has been an ever scarier world.

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.