The last time Americans elected a weak but extremely popular President, the world was a the peak of the Cold War. In the ensuing crisis, U.S. and the Soviet Union stepped back from the brink of a nuclear exchange over Cuba. Khrushchev read Kennedy as weak and indecisive, and played one of the most dangerous bluffs in human history. But when the U.S. called the bluff, both nations still had enough of the collective, basic human instinct for survival to back down.
Even the last potentially suicidal enemy Americans faced—the Japanese in WWII—eventually turned back from the horrific slaughter of its people that would have resulted if a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands had been required. There was still some trace of decency then, enough to know even in the throes of the deepest form of insanity humans can experience that it was time to stop and make peace.
Beasts in the wild—even stray dogs wandering city streets living on garbage— have the instinctive sense of order and communal welfare to know when to kill, when to only threaten, and when to give up.
The next U.S. President will have to find a way to confront an evil unprecedented in modern history—-a enemy possessed by an unquenchable lust for apocalypse. It was a bad time for the American people to repeat this particular mistake.
It will also be the first time Americans have elected a President who is openly contemptuous of the rights guaranteed to them in the contracts on which their government is based. Barak Obama is on record as believing that the Constitution is an inconvenience to be maneuvered around.
Our ancestors hesitantly agreed to concentration of power in a central, federal republic because they were given certain promises in writing that limited what the government could do to them and their descendants. Those promises have often been meddled with, overstepped in part, but have seldom been completely ignored—most of the time, those in power at least fretted over whether the general ideas were being observed.
Now, as a President who doesn’t really have much use for the Constitution and Bill of Rights moves into the White House, and the last few of the not-completely-broken promises made to the first generation of independent Americans is more openly unmade, we will have to start looking elsewhere for our peace, order, and freedom.
This unmaking of the Federal Republic will not make the new conflicts in the rest of the world easier to deal with. It was just a really bad time to make this particular mistake again.