You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself." - Sam Levenson
With containment clearly failing, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon went with detente. What is detente? Think of it as adversaries getting along like two rattlesnakes trapped in the same burlap bag. Detente was supplemented with the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Yes, it would be madness for the principal actors to confront each other directly. Their combined nuclear arsenals were sufficient to destroy the world several times over. Still detente failed because the nascent combatants simply employed client states who engaged in limited hostilities to decide the issues, and strife continued.
It's difficult to fault President Carter. Neither containment nor detente were practiced during his Administration. Actually, it's difficult to name his policy for dealing with strife inasmuch as he never actually appeared to deal with it. He was too busy micromanaging his Administration to be aware of it. That's not to say that he didn't contribute to strife in the world. Indeed, his contribution to the fall of the Shah of Iran led directly to the problems in the Middle East that we're dealing with today. Still, he's proud of his efforts to rid the world of a most unchristian ruler. However, in all honesty, his Administration didn't even present a speed bump to strife. In its final days, the forces of strife reigned.
That brings us to confrontation. Fear of confrontation led the Iranians to release the American hostages within the first hours of Ronald Reagan's Administration. Apparently, the Iranians read the messages that the American press had used in a vain attempt to block Reagan's election. They must have believed that he was the cowboy president as editors derisively named Reagan. When Muammar Gaddafi tested Reagan's mettle by blowing up a nightclub in Germany frequented by American servicemen, Reagan ordered immediate air strikes on every residence where the Libyan tyrant might be found and he was never heard from again during the Reagan Administration. Reagan was the first to name the Soviets as the Evil Empire and acknowledge that we were at war with them. Despite his other missteps, it was his willingness to confront enemies and engage them that is the prime factor in their downfall and a brief span of relief from the stresses of strife in the world.
Thus, Barack Obama had three examples to employ – containment, detente, confrontation – or create a policy of his own. He tried containment, his lines in the sand. He tried detente – negotiating with the Iranians – and promises us peace in our time. He eschews confrontation like the plague.
We are left to wonder. If President Obama is the smartest man in the room, is he pursuing failure. If he isn't, are we going to survive his failures?