On this day in 1987, President Ronald Reagan, speaking in the divided city of Berlin, challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." Gorbachev did not rush to obey, of course, but the wall did come down, the Soviet Union broke apart, and the Cold War ended. What American presidents said back then mattered.
President George W. Bush is in Europe this week, the last visit planned during his presidency. Do you know where he's been? Do you remember anything he's said? I don't either, and I'll bet most Europeans don't. Theodore Roosevelt advised walking softly and carrying a big stick. This president, with a tired military fighting in two wars, is walking softly, all right, but he's carrying a very small stick.
Europe doesn't have to pay as much attention to us as it used to. Neither does anybody else.
No one power--not America, not Russia, not China--is going to rule the world in the near future. Power will be shared; several major powers will each have zones of influence. But Mr. Bush's successor is going to have to try to restore some of the influence this president has let slip away.
Mr. Bush acknowledged to the Times of London this week that he regrets some of his hot cowboy talk when he invaded Iraq - "dead or alive," phrases like that. But he didn't seem in that interview to regret the war at all, which is astonishing. More than 4,000 Americans dead, more than 100,000 (no real count exists) Iraqis dead, and for what? We killed Saddam Hussein, but was his death worth all that? And if the President has some clear idea of where we're headed in Iraq, I must have missed it.
Oh well. The next president is almost bound to do better. America remains a major power and has a role to play in trying to keep the planet peaceful. Mr. Bush just never figured out what that role was.