Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
Considering the Obama administration's ever wobblier attempt to impose "crippling sanctions" on Iran, the New York Times' David Sanger recently wrote, "The delays and the potential for a substantially watered-down resolution, Mr. Obama's allies say, have put the administration's credibility on the line in one of its biggest foreign policy challenges."
Credibility. Washington policymakers have been in search of it, have even fought wars in its name, for half a century now. In the Vietnam era, realizing that our victory weapons, nuclear bombs, were essentially too powerful to use, American strategic thinkers sought others ways to project, if not power commensurate with our arsenal, then an image of power commensurate with it—"an image of vast national strength and of unwavering determination to use that strength in world affairs," as Jonathan Schell explained in his remarkable book from that era, Time of Illusion. Unfortunately, when you put your faith in "credibility," you also offer power to others in whose eyes you must, of course, be credible.
By that standard, in the age of Obama, the United States has reached a curious moment of rising incredibility on the global stage. Indeed, nothing illustrated this onrushing state more vividly than the whack the Israelis recently gave Vice President Joe Biden—and so the global image of American power. While Biden was in Israel paying homage to that country and trying to jumpstart the "peace process," Israel announced a new building program in East Jerusalem. The news wasn't in itself particularly startling—such building in occupied lands, after all, has been a non-stop reality of Israeli policy for years. New was the stunning timing of the announcement, the way the leadership of a country remarkably dependent on American power and money evidently had no hesitation in administering a humiliating credibility-drubbing to Mr. Number Two.