Lately in the news:
Beijing provokes clashes with the navies of both Indonesia and Japan as part of a bid to claim the South China Sea. Tokyo is in a serious diplomatic row with Russia over the South Kuril islands, a leftover dispute from 1945. There are credible fears that Tehran and Damascus will use the anticipated indictment of Hezbollah figures by a U.N. tribunal to overthrow the elected Lebanese government. Managua is attempting to annex a sliver of Costa Rica, a nation much too virtuous to have an army of its own. And speaking of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega is setting himself up as another Hugo Chávez by running, unconstitutionally, for another term. Both men are friends and allies of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
About all of this, the Obama administration has basically done nothing.
Last week, Mr. Obama was so resoundingly rebuffed by other leaders at the G-20 summit in Seoul that even the New York Times noticed: Mr. Obama, the paper wrote, faced “stiff challenges . . . from the leaders of China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.” His administration has now been chastised or belittled by everyone from the Supreme Leader of Iran to the finance minister of Germany to the president of France to the dictator of Syria. What does it mean for global order when the world figures out that the U.S. president is someone who’s willing to take no for an answer?
The answer is that the United States becomes Europe. Except on a handful of topics, like trade and foreign aid, the foreign policy of the European Union, and that of most of its constituent states, amounts to a kind of diplomatic air guitar: furious motion, considerable imagination, but neither sound nor effect.