Picture, if you will, that we are living in this kind of strategically dysfunctional world right now — despite whatever hope you may see in the fledgling Iran nuclear deal. We all know how rough the past decade plus has been on the U.S. And we grasp how far Europe has fallen from its global perch. The British have been coming to terms with their diminished status for years. Although France is the most potent country on the Continent, with the most future potential, right now it is also the one most to blame for the Libya debacle. Before that misadventure, France was frustrated and overruled on Iraq; afterward, it has been forced to grump along on the sidelines of the Iran negotiations. For Europe, it’s all downhill from there. Germany, for instance, has its hands full preventing monetary mutiny and financial collapse, straining all the while to stay cozy with a more than prickly Russia.

Russia itself has choked on Ukraine and tanked its currency out of obstinate pride. It does not know how to balance or neutralize Iranian and Saudi influence along its weak, Islamized southern border. It is barely hanging on to its geopolitical toehold in Syria.

China, meanwhile, has such terrible structural problems that its maritime expansionism looks like a provocation but little more. It is pushing Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam farther away than ever. North Korea forms a dilemma beyond any solving. Even China’s Nicaraguan canal, allegedly an independent businessman’s project, is primed to sink into conflict and expense. Its panicked acquisition of arable African land draws China deep into Africa’s deadly instability.