Stop swooning over Putin

HANOVER, GERMANY - APRIL 08:  Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) speak to the media after touring the Hannover Messe 2013 industrial trade fair on April 8, 2013 in Hanover, Germany. Merkel and Putin toured the fair, which is the world's largest industry trade fair and has partnered this year with Russia.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(CNN)It's true that it has been a quarter-century since Moscow has been so interventionist outside its borders. The last time it made these kinds of moves, in the late 1970s and 1980s, it invaded Afghanistan and interfered in several other countries as well. Back then, commentators similarly hailed those actions as signs that Moscow was winning the Cold War. How did that work out for the Soviet Union?

Washington's foreign policy elites have developed a mind-set that mistakes activity for achievement. They assume that every crisis in the world can and should be solved by a vigorous assertion of U.S. power, preferably military power. Failure to do so is passivity and produces weakness. By this logic, Russia and Iran are the new masters of the Middle East. Never mind that those countries are desperately trying to shore up a sinking ally. Their clients, the Alawites of Syria, are a minority regime — representing less than 15 percent of the country's people — and face deadly insurgencies supported by vast portions of the population. Iran is bleeding resources in Syria. And if Russia and Iran win, somehow, against the odds, they get Syria — which is a cauldron, not a prize. The United States has been "in the driver's seat" in Afghanistan for 14 years. Has that strengthened America?