Obama has lots of power, and he uses it effectively to divide his already fractured and feckless opposition and to expand the soft tyranny that he desires. He knows what he wants in America: a country crisscrossed with paralyzing rules and regulations in which he can impose his will through big institutions (both private and governmental) and charisma. He also seems to know what he wants from America-in-the-world: weakness and withdrawal.

In other words, he acts as if he shares Putin and the Iranian regime’s view of America as a source of wickedness in international affairs.

Obama evidently believes that the best way to improve the state of the world is to keep America weak and to contain American dynamism within our own borders, where he can dictate terms. It would seem he’d be a natural interlocutor for both Putin and the Iranian tyrants.

But no.

Paradoxically, the more he caters to their desires, the more he slashes and burns the armed forces, the more he talks about accelerating American retreat from the terror network, the harder it has become to make the deals he promised his followers.

That should not surprise serious people. “If you want peace, prepare for war,” the ancient Romans tried to teach us.  “Weakness is provocative,” Rumsfeld once paraphrased. Weakening and containing America is little more than preemptive appeasement, and it breeds contempt, the most dangerous of all things to any leader. Obama senses at least a part of this. He doesn’t like being spat upon by Putin (whether about Snowden or Assad), which accounts for the hissy fit. However, there is nothing strategic in the cancellation of the Putin summit; it’s a personal matter, it’s of a piece with the error of trying to explain the world by resort to psychobabble about celebrities. And so he spat back.

The Iranians, more guileful than Putin, do not openly spit upon Obama. They pretend to be the essence of sweet reasonableness, even as they support a global terror network that kills Americans and exposes the failure of Obama’s “lead with the behind” approach to the world. But he can barely contain his eagerness to strike a grand bargain with our killers.

He cannot bring himself to speak of the regime’s repression of the Iranian people, seems not to notice the extraordinary increase in executions in that unhappy land ever since the “moderate” Rouhani was elected, and did not even raise the possibility of the liberation of an American hostage before decreeing the release of five Taliban killers from Guantanamo.

Is there no national leader who sees the advance of our enemies, aided and abetted by the misguided policies of our leaders?  Is there no one who will stand up every day in our legislature to appeal for the release of political prisoners in Russia and Iran and support opposition demands for greater liberty?

The hell of it is that our enemies are facing mounting crises of their own, undermining their authority and stimulating their own internal opposition. The war of all against all in Iran is intensifying, catalyzed by the supreme leader’s indecisiveness and enormous unpopularity. Recent demonstrations against Putin in Russia bespeak his failure to convince the people he has put the country on the right path,even if he, like the mullahs, can still impose a brutal order. Russia and Iran are failed states — just look at the lethal demographic data. Their people know there is a better way, a way that was traditionally embodied in “American exceptionalism.” Or, more simply, the way of a free society.

If only Obama believed in it, we could win this thing.

As it stands, our would-be assassins are on the march. Having failed to prepare for war, we will not have peace.