Until this week I thought I had already lived through the nadir of US influence.
I was commissioned into the Army under Jimmy Carter and experienced, first hand, his feckless management of the US economy and foreign affairs. Indeed, perhaps as an object lesson for future generations, there were many similarities between Mr. Carter's arrival in the White House and Barack Obama's. Both arrived as a result of national fatigue with their predecessor. Both arrived with a burgeoning economic crisis on their hands. Both grossly mismanaged the economy. Both promised change and they gave it change to us good and hard and unlubricated.
There the similarities end.
Unlike Obama, in Carter's defense he inherited a defense establishment that was bruised and demoralized after an extended war in Vietnam followed by an ignominious abandonment of our allies. We had no credibility. The armed forces had lost decades of experience as officers and noncommissioned officers voted with their feet and left military service rather than suffer the indignities one faced as a consequence of staying. Obama, on the other hand, inherited a war that was mostly won (Iraq) and a war that was imminently winnable (Afghanistan). His military had sky high re-enlistment rates and was the most combat experienced force we have fielded since the Indian Wars. While we might not have been liked, no one doubted what would happen if you made the effort to gain George Bush's attention.
Obama, to all appearances, set out to change all that. No Status of Forces Agreement was negotiated with Iraq: partly because his envoy was too busy getting blow jobs on the embassy roof top and partly because Obama had pledged -- stupidly -- to withdraw from Iraq by a certain date. Joe Biden was put in charge of Afghanistan strategy with all the steely eyed focus that entailed. The economy was thrashed by a combination of crony capitalism and cargo cult economics. The unemployment rate has been held down only because of the ruthless assault by the administration on the denominator side of the equation.
I don't believe, as Norman Podhoretz does, that Obama has set out to do this on purpose but if he had done it on purpose this is what he would have done. I differ with Podhoretz because I have seen no evidence the cornpone Machiavellis in this administration could actually carry out such a plan.
I have stood by in slackjawed amazement over the past two years as the administration has handed over two countries to islamic radicals and expected plaudits for doing so. However, this past two or three weeks has made me pine for the halcyon days of James Earl Carter when at least the blundering was accompanied by hard work and high priniciples.
Obama has attempted to give a third nation to islamic radicals. Granted, if he had acted forcefully two years ago we could have conceivably shaped the opposition. But we didn't. Now the rebels, at least those bothering to show up to fight, are overwhelmingly islamists and increasingly influenced by al Qaeda.
When a chemical weapons attack was launched, one that is still of uncertain provenance at least to the extent that it was sanctioned by Assad, thus crossing a "red line" rather than launching an immediate retaliation nothing was done.
When it became obvious that Congressional approval was not forthcoming we found that the attack was going to be "unbelievably small" and we found that the administration thought the use of chemical weapons by Syria would convince Iran to turn against her ally.
Then Vladimir Putin accepted terms offered by John Kerry, presumably in French, and confounded any military action by the administration.
To cap off this farce, Obama, on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, made a speech to the nation endorsing our military intervention on behalf of the people who pulled off 9/11.
I have lived too long. I am actually nostalgic for Jimmy Carter and the days when America was prosperous at home and respected abroad.