The urge to pull back — to concentrate on what Obama calls “nation-building at home” — is nothing new. . . There were similar retrenchments after the Korea and Vietnam wars and when the Soviet Union crumbled. But the U.S. discovered each time that the world became a more dangerous place without its leadership and that disorder in the world could threaten U.S. prosperity.
as long as some leaders play by what [Secretary of State John] Kerry dismisses as 19th-century rules, the United States can’t pretend that the only game is in another arena altogether. Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not.
While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too. As Putin ponders whether to advance further — into eastern Ukraine, say — he will measure the seriousness of U.S. and allied actions, not their statements. China, pondering its next steps in the East China Sea, will do the same. Sadly, that’s the nature of the century we’re living in.Comment: There are signs Germany is an even weaker link than Obama in forging a necessarily-strong response to Russian aggression.