the world unravels on Barack Obama’s watch, conservatives might want to take some solace in saying—We told you so! But they shouldn’t. First of all, it’s not as if the Romney campaign or the GOP congressional leadership or most conservative organizations really spent much time bothering to warn of the consequences of Obama’s foreign policy. And in any case, there’s not much solace to be had, as the world coming apart threatens the well-being of America, not just the success of Barack Obama’s second term.
So what can conservatives do? They can explain that decline has been a choice, and that weakness has consequences. They can explain that Obama’s inaction in Syria now is of a piece with his inaction in Iran in 2009, that the abandonment of Iraq in 2011 prefigured the prospective abandonment of Afghanistan over the next couple of years, and that defense cuts at home go hand in hand with an oh-so-light footprint abroad. The Obama administration has chosen a course of American retrenchment and retreat. Conservatives can urge the president to reverse course. They can try to minimize the damage he can cause over the next four years. And, as important, they can prepare to be ready to repair the damage from the Obama years.
We’ve recovered before. In the late 1940s, a war-weary nation looked the other way as the Soviet Union occupied Eastern Europe and China went Communist. It was only after the North Korean invasion of the South that the United States, first under Harry Truman and then Dwight Eisenhower, faced up to its responsibilities—but at considerable cost in lives and treasure over the next decades as we fought wars that perhaps could have been avoided and endured a Cold War that needn’t have been as threatening as it was. In the late 1970s, a war-weary nation watched as Khomeini took over Iran and the Sandinistas Nicaragua. This time, the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan served as the wake-up call, answered first (to a degree) by Jimmy Carter, then resoundingly by Ronald Reagan.
And on and on and on like that, lamenting the wars of yesteryear and the new wars that could be if only we had a President who understood the Importance of War.