Why did things go south for Carter so fast? Because America’s enemies had taken measure of the man during his first, change-filled year in office. They saw weaknesses they could exploit. In the second year, they made their move.
In Year One, Carter invested all the international prestige of his presidency in diplomacy and image-making. His energy was dedicated almost exclusively to “making nice” on the world stage. It’s what drove his actions in the Israeli-Egyptian peace process, at strategic-arms limitation talks and in negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty.
It was a perpetual exercise in “soft power.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Except …
While Obama and co might think they are living in a post-modern world where everything can be deconstructed in to meaninglessness, the rest of the world lives in reality where power matters. In fact, for the leaders of Russia, Iran, China and Syria, the only thing which matters is power. Even supposing the left wing narrative is right (ie, that what we’re dealing with is blowback from our previous policy errors and crimes), it doesn’t change the fact that enemy leaders simply don’t care one way or the other about it. They only care about their power, and getting more of it – and in the global competition for Tyrant of the Year, wrecking US policy is always a sure winner.
They don’t care that Obama is black. They don’t care that Obama is cool. They don’t care that Obama speaks fluent liberalese. They are delighted we are essentially telegraphing that we won’t use force to get our way. They are thrilled to find that Obama is willing to give up strong positions on the theory that by so doing we’ll make the tyrants willing to work with us for the common good. And they are now crafting their plans with all this in mind.
And that means we’re in for a bad couple years. Welcome back, Carter.