The Mood of 1980

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

Next year could be a frightening one, in the fashion of 1979–80.

The developing circumstances of our withdrawal from Afghanistan conjure up Vietnam 1975, with all the refugees, reprisals, humiliation, and emboldened enemies on the horizon, though this time there is no coastline for a flotilla of boat people to launch from. The Obama administration is debating no-fly zones over Syria; more likely, it will have the same discussion over Afghanistan soon, once the Taliban drops the diplomatic veneer and comes back into town.

Because of the failure to negotiate a single residual base in Iraq, Iran has appropriated a vast air corridor to the Middle East. John Kerry speaks sonorously to Russia and China, but apparently assumes that diplomacy follows gentlemanly New England yacht protocols, the right of way given to the more sober, judicious, and pontificating.

When Obamacare comes on line full bore, I think the American people could be quite depressed over the strange things they encounter. The economy offers only marginal encouragement, given that unemployment is still high and growth low; printing money at a record pace is not sustainable. Only gas and oil production is encouraging — and that is despite, not because of, administration efforts.

The Snowden extradition affair in and of itself could be small potatoes, but it takes on enormous iconic importance when the Chinese and Russians feel no compunction about publicly snubbing the administration — with North Korea, Iran, and many in the Middle East watching and drawing the conclusion that there are no consequences to getting on the bad side of the United States. Or perhaps they no longer see a bad side at all and consider us complacent neutral observers. Red lines, deadlines, ultimatums, “make no mistake about it,” “let me be perfectly clear,” the Nobel Peace Prize — all that is the stuff of yesteryear, its currency depleted by the years of speaking quite loudly while carrying a tiny stick.

All of the above take place while the Benghazi, IRS, AP/Fox, and NSA scandals are thought to be best handled by simple neglect, media lethargy, and amnesia on the part of the people.

We are back to the future, with the same old, same old sort of Carteresque engineered malaise.

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