Victor Davis Hanson

The Obama administration often denies any responsibility for the current global chaos or claims that it erupted spontaneously. Yet most of the mess was caused by, or made worse by, growing U.S. indifference and paralysis.

Over the last five and a half years, America has had lots of clear choices, but the administration usually took the path of least short-term trouble, which has ensured long-term hardship.

There was no need to "reset" the relatively mild punishments that the George W. Bush administration had accorded Vladimir Putin's Russia for invading Georgia in 2008. By unilaterally normalizing relations with Russia and trashing Bush, Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only green-lighted further Russian aggression that has now spread to Crimea and Ukraine.

There was no need for Obama, almost immediately upon assuming office, to distance the U.S. from Israel by criticizing Israel's policies and warming to its enemies, such as authoritarian Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and Hamas.

Any time Israel's enemies have glimpsed growing distance in the U.S.-Israeli friendship, they seek only to pry it still wider. We see just that with terrorists in Gaza who launch hundreds of missiles into Israel on the expectation that the U.S. will broker a favorable deal that finds both sides equally at fault.

Sanctions had crippled Iran to the point that it soon would have grown desperate to meet U.S. demands to stop its nuclear enrichment. Instead, Obama eased trade restrictions just as they were coming to fruition. Iran is now on its way to acquiring a bomb, while supplying missiles to Hamas and Hezbollah.

We had an option in Libya to let the tottering but reforming Muammar Gadhafi government fend for itself. Or we could have taken out Gadhafi and then sent in peacekeepers to ensure a transition to ordered government. But the Obama administration did neither. Instead, the U.S. participated in a multi-nation bombing campaign and all but guaranteed that a failed state would be left on Europe's doorstep. Now we have just closed our embassy in Tripoli and fled the country entirely.

There were once viable choices in Egypt. Instead, the administration managed to alienate the old Hosni Mubarak regime, alienate the elected Muslim Brotherhood that immediately tried to subvert the democracy, and alienate the military junta that stepped in to stop the Islamization of Egypt. All of these rival groups share one thing in common: a distrust of the U.S.


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.