Victor Davis Hanson is good at explaining these things. I just read them and link. If there were only one person I could read, he would be the one.
Shy and Retiring America
A perfect storm of events is eroding the perception of American deterrence—and the world will shortly become an even scarier place. The fiscal crisis has cast doubt on the government’s ability to act forcefully, especially the president’s emasculation during the entire process. These perceptions, of course, pale in consideration to the reality of out of control spending the first three years of the Obama administration that added almost $5 trillion to the U.S. debt and is both humiliating America and questioning whether it can still pay for its enormous military. Almost every day, we are borrowing $4 billion, enough to build a new fleet aircraft carrier (and, of course, are not building aircraft carriers with such daily deficits as we did in World War II).
Instead, defense spending is seen by the administration as the preferred target for cutting, especially in comparison to entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. That sometimes 18- and 19-year olds learn more in the military on a flight deck than taking 6-units of -studies courses per semester for 7 years on federal grants is near libel. No matter—defense is going to be cut and the perception that it is going to be cut will be almost as important as from where exactly the ships and planes are withdrawn.
Enemies as Friends, Friends as Enemies
But more importantly, the Obama administration, in four or five key instances, has signaled to the world that there are no advantages to being a nonjudgmental U.S. ally, and no downside to being an outspoken American enemy. Who has been more often on the receiving end of U.S. lectures—Netanyahu or Abbas? Eastern Europeans or Russia? Who has been the recipient of U.S. outreach? Iran or Israel? Syria or Egypt? It would be far better to be a totalitarian police state that practices institutionalized murder than a pro-American kleptocratic autocracy, at least as seen in the differing attitudes accorded a Tunisia in comparison to Syria and Iran. This administration has a bad habit of calibrating a regime’s authenticity and legitimacy by the degree of its expressed anti-Americanism between 2001-8.
In addition, to the extent that we use military force, it will be haphazard and questions of quitting will trump those of winning. International organizations—whether the Arab League or the United Nations—will win deference that neither the U.S. Congress nor American allies enjoy.
[...]Obama can explain to us what victory won’t look like, but not what it might look like. In Iraq, he left the Bush-Petraeus withdrawal plan in place—ignoring his own demands as a senator that all troops should have been out by March 2008, then by the end of 2008, then by the end of 2009, and so on. But such allegiance to stabilizing Iraq is nullified by his serial denunciations that the removal of Saddam and fostering subsequent democracy—today the only real functioning Arab democracy—was a terrible mistake.
Libya is a mess—no mission, no methodology, no outcome. [...]
Is Guantanamo Open or Virtually Closed?
Obama confused the world about American anti-terrorism protocols. As a demagogic senator and candidate, he spent three years damning them as both ineffective and anti-American, and then embraced them all. [...]
Will the Cops or the Mob Provide Protection?
But it is in the Pacific where we may well see the most dramatic changes of American withdrawal. Insidiously, the Chinese are translating their formidable financial power into a new muscular military profile. North Korea is as crazy as ever. The proverbially terrorized shop-keeper in the region thus does not know where to turn—to the mostly absent cop on the beat dreaming of his union pension, or the young thugs who demand protection money or else.
The result is that Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines have one eye on China, and one on Washington—and therefore are increasingly terrified.[...]
Right now, I could not imagine that anyone in Taiwan would believe the Obama administration would say or do anything should Chinese ships tomorrow show up a mile off the Taiwanese coast.[...]
In short, we will be back soon to about 1937. The old rules are disappearing. All that we await for is some audacious trouble-maker to make perfectly clear that there are no such rules, demonstrated by some flagrant violation of the international order—in 1979 fashion of taking an embassy, crossing a border, or overthrowing a government.[...]
Read it all. I’ve left out much of it. It is important that we understand what he is saying and work to keep it from happening.