"The Americans are fools." Bond raised an eyebrow as he listened to the mocking commentary of SPECTRE's Dr. No -- the ultimate arch-villain.
The first James Bond film was an instant success. It premiered in 1962, a time when the Cold War was still seen largely as a black and white struggle between good and evil. Dr. No was America's kind of enemy -- ruthless, bloodless, no scruples -- just plain wicked. He was the on-screen embodiment of our real-world fears.
Then came the Vietnam War, a conflict that deeply rattled the Cold War consensus. American popular culture, in particular, became ambivalent over who the good guys and the bad guys really were anymore. As time wore on, the antagonists in the Bond films became more cartoonish than dangerous -- caricatures of bad guys.
That tradition continues to this day. In Bond's latest adventure "Skyfall," the evildoer "Silva" is just weird. A stateless criminal and former intelligence operative, he seems like a character mostly crafted to create a bad guy figure that could not possibly offend anyone.
If making evil fatuous were just a Hollywood practice, it would not be so bad. But, increasingly, blurring the line between good and bad has become a tenant of American foreign policy. It's an attractive practice, because it offers an easy out. If threats aren't perceived as threats, there is nothing to worry about. When dangers do materialize, then those who turned a blind eye to them can't be blamed -- they never saw it coming. This is the way Bart Simpson would practice foreign affairs. When anything goes wrong -- "I didn't do it. Nobody saw me. You can't prove a thing."
Hamas is a case in point. An off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the "Islamic Resistance Movement" has been mostly interested in attacking Israel since its formation in the Palestinian Territories in the 1980s. While both the United States and the European Union formally consider Hamas a terrorist organization, you'd hardly know that from observing our treatment of the organization. The White House seems mostly interested in appearing "even-handed." After all, why treat Israel any better than a terrorist group?
It is particularly baffling to see the administration condemn the regime in Syria while making nice with the Hamas-influenced Palestinian Authority. Syria is a state-sponsor of terrorism, ruled by a corrupt, oppressive regime. It is also a tool of Iran. If Palestine became a state tomorrow -- it would look pretty much like Syria.
When the U.N. General Assembly recently took up the proposal to upgrade Palestine's status, the U.S response was pathetic. Countries like Portugal and Spain that traditionally abstain in these votes wound up tacitly recognizing Palestinian statehood -- without telling the Americans they were going to jump ship. U.S. ability to muster votes for its cause was either half-hearted or wholly inept -- either explanation doesn't bode well for the practice of our power and influence.
Now the U.S. faces a situation where the Palestinian Authority can seek a seat on the International Atomic Energy Agency. From that post, Hamas can "help" oversee supervision of Iran's nuclear program. Given how much assistance Hamas gets from Tehran, you can guess how vigilant Hamas would be. Indeed, any U.N. activity in which the Palestine Authority participates is pretty much guaranteed to be, first and foremost, an attempt to marginalize U.S. and Israeli interests.
Hamas is evil. But, when the primary goals of U.S. foreign policy seem to be not to pick sides, not get involved, to disengage and to lead from behind, then results like the recent U.N. vote should be expected as a matter of course.
Examiner Columnist James Jay Carafano is the vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The Examiner.