Recall a lifetime ago (actually it was 2008), when a certified dove won the presidency in a landslide. One of his first official acts was to undertake a trip to a number of Muslim countries, wherein apologies were offered for America’s “imperialist” past. Assurances were also made: The cowboy Bush and his warmongering neocons were gone. Mr. Obama would now inform the world that America had learned its lesson. The U.S. would no longer manifest its arrogance on the world stage. We would henceforth strive to have the world like us — especially our charismatic but unthreatening young president, who was counterintuitive himself, seeming to act on the premise that if the United States was ostentatiously embarrassed about its dominance and power, we would be better liked. And we were better liked, but much more endangered and much less intimidating.

American withdrawal from world hot spots followed. Where we did show up, we made sure to provide the enemy with the date and time of our engagement. Where we did take action, only tentative commitment followed. Who can forget Secretary of State John Kerry promising a “unbelievably small, limited kind of [bombing] effect” against Bashar al Assad’s murderous regime, or a famously failed “red line” in that same country; or the description of deserter Bowe Bergdahl as having served with “honor and distinction”; or freezing defensive missiles in Poland to placate Vladimir Putin; or our feckless response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea; or the specter of funding the Iranian ballistic-missile program and the mullahs’ terror activities throughout the Middle East?