As far as powerful and determined totalitarian states are concerned, the twentieth century was far worse for all concerned. However, what we are grappling with at this moment is a complete lack of leadership in the West. Not weak leadership, not poor leadership but no leadership.
In Britain we have a Prime Minister who is completely uninterested in foreign matters and a Foreign Secretary who is incapable of saying anything; the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition seems not to understand that there is more to the world than the odd skiing resort. I have no time now to go into another set of vituperations about the Shadow Foreign Secretary, whose one idea of policy is let us detach ourselves from the United States. Everything else is covered in mist.
We can discard the EU and most of its member states. The ones that do try to speak up for freedom and democracy (not Britain) are shouted down (by Britain among others).
That leaves the United States. President Bush was mocked for his speeches in which he exalted freedom and democracy. Well, now we have President Obama and the less said about his speeches on foreign affairs the better.
Both in Cairo and in Moscow he has produced the sort of vapid, unhistorical bilge that we have come to expect from the man who cheerfully spoke of 57 states, people speaking Austrian and mentioned twice that his uncle helped to liberate Auschwitz.
Claudia Rossett analyzes the Moscow speech and gives it very low marks. (Barack's Teleprompter is also unimpressed by the Big Guy's memory failure about his first meeting with Michelle.)
President Obama seems to treat his official visits as family holidays, refusing to spend more time than is absolutely necessary with his hosts, in order to have romantic dinners with Michelle in Paris or chill out with his family in Moscow. That is not funny. Why is he dragging his daughters round these trips? If he thinks they are too young to be left with the various nannies and their grandmother in the White House he should have waited till they were older before pounding so hard after the presidency. Neither the Russian negotiators nor the Russian people are likely to be impressed by behaviour that reminds them all of their own leaders at their worst.
His behaviour over Honduras and the support he has given automatically to President Zelaya who is best friends with Hugo Chavez and was working towards undermining the Honduran constitution and democratic structure is chilling.
The lack of reasonable response to North Korea and Iran is frightening and the lukewarm support for the brave and persistent opponents of Ahmadinejad makes one long for the days of almost any other president of recent decades. The question is, what motivates Obama in all this? Does he genuinely not know or understand what is going on or does he really prefer dictators wherever they happen to be?
Caroline Glick, not my favourite columnist, is, for once, quite restrained. Like many others, she compares Obama's behaviour with that of President Reagan when the Communist world began to shake. Not surprisingly, she finds the Messiah somewhat wanting in ability, understanding and clarity.
The models for overthrowing the regimes in Teheran and Pyongyang are not new. Modified versions were successfully implemented just twenty-odd years ago. The model for Iran is Poland circa 1981. The model for North Korea is East Germany in 1989.Of course, there were many who thought at the time that we should be appeasing Soviet leaders instead of supporting their opponents. They are, unfortunately, have not gone away and in President Obama as well as Secretary of State Clinton they have acquired politicians who will listen to them, being themselves natural appeasers.
Unfortunately, whereas in the 1980s the leaders of the Free World were committed to winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union by securing the freedom of those who lived under Communism's jackboot, today, led by Obama, the Free World behaves as though the Berlin Wall fell of its own devices. The will of free men and women risking everything to oppose tyranny had nothing to do with it, we are told. If we care about peace, we should appease the likes of Ahmadinejad and Kim, not bring them down.
As my American friends say, it's going to be a long four years. The last six months feel very long.