The slow American withdrawal from world affairs has been apparent for a long time, but has never been so glaringly evident as this week in the Middle East.
Hamas is at war with Israel, the brutal struggle in Syria frustrates the world, the terrorists of ISIS are making serious progress in Iraq — and now another attempt to deprive Iran of nuclear weapons has, so far, been thwarted.
The United States has a position of sorts in each of these arenas, but it’s not powerful in any of them. American influence has faded.
The world’s governments no longer worry as much as they once did about what Washington wants, partly because Washington doesn’t know what it wants. U.S. policy has become erratic and half-hearted, subject to arbitrary change without notice.
Barack Obama, who apparently distrusts American power, personifies this approach. He moves capriciously from subject to subject. One week he’s furious about Syria and announces that Bashar al-Assad has to go. When Assad doesn’t go, Obama loses interest. He seems always to be making a fresh start. When he’s not doing that, he’s “pivoting,” shifting his interest from one continent to another. He seems detached much of the time, then committed, then detached again.