As with the 20th century Fascist and Communist totalitarians, the current crop of Islamist and secular (think Baathist) totalitarians in the Middle East say what they mean, and act on it.
What works? Ironically, Reagan — the so-called arch-conservative — proved to be the true revolutionary. While liberals like Carter invited the success of radicals who installed totalitarian regimes that worked against us, Reagan supported democratic forces in both friendly and unfriendly tyrannies, from the Soviet Union to Argentina. Reagan knew what both Carter and Obama reject: that America is the one truly revolutionary country in the world, and part of our national mission is to support democratic revolutionaries against their oppressors.
Late in the third year of his presidency, Jimmy Carter had an epiphany when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. At which point, fear of Communism was suddenly no longer irrational in his eyes. Whereupon, he began the expansion of our military budget that ultimately made the United States so powerful that the grey men in the Kremlin did not dare to lash out at us when the bell tolled for the Soviet Empire. Obama is now at a similar juncture. Does he now see the urgency of responding to the anti-American tyrants in Tehran and Damascus? Will he support their opponents?
Strange things do happen. Nobody thought Jimmy Carter could turn around and start fighting totalitarian Communism. But he did. Can Obama at least support those fighting totalitarian Islamism?
Not bloody likely, but you never know.