In Iran, Obama's desire to "engage" has made it difficult for him to support the opposition; meanwhile, the regime's threats are far from subtle. "The Iranian nation warns the leaders of those countries trying to take advantage of the situation, beware! The Iranian nation will react," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned. Of course, warnings aren't enough—as Saddam Hussein learned—and negotiation alone, with no persuasive threat of violence, can bring down a regime or an organization. But combining the two is a formula perfectly tailored to current international sensibilities. It has worked well for Sudan and for belligerent North Korea.
Americans often search for explanations by looking inward to apportion blame—by pointing a finger at Bush or Obama, expressing an urgent need to prioritize the economy, or rehashing the vices of liberalism and the sins of conservatism. While all these factors no doubt contribute to the current mood, looking inward is not enough—indeed, it's just another sign of Western narcissism. The end of interventionalism is not just a sign of the mellowing of the West; it is also an indication that the enemy is getting stronger—and smarter.