BACK in 2012, US President Barack Obama set out a clear red line to Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad that if he used chemical weapons in his country’s civil war there would be serious consequences.
Assad is a blood-soaked monster, but he is no fool and he knows an empty suit when he sees one. He took one look at Obama and decided he was bluffing, and so he unleashed chlorine, mustard gas and sarin nerve gas attacks against his own people.
It turned out that Assad calculated correctly. The red line was well and truly crossed, but Obama did absolutely nothing other than ludicrously try to pretend he had never set out a red line in the first place.
Fast forward to last Sunday and once again Obama is displaying the same level of braggadocio – with the same familiar result.
The White House let it be known the US President had telephoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and told him to stop bombing so-called “moderate” rebels in Syria.
Putin’s response? First, the Kremlin made it clear that any cessation in the fighting in Syria agreed between the major powers in Munich last week would not apply to Russian forces and they would continue bombing who the hell they wanted, whether the US liked it or not.
They then demonstrated this by bombing four hospitals and two schools in Syria killing at least 50 people including patients and children.
Has ever a US president been held in such withering contempt by the international community?
Because of Obama’s weakness, US influence in world affairs is probably at its lowest ebb since 1945.
And when the “leader of the free world” fails to show any leadership worthy of the name, all kinds of nasties are sucked into the power vacuum.
So we have Islamic State, a resurgent Russia and a cocksure Iran taking centre stage – none of them any friends to democracy, liberty or human rights.
Even ostensible US allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are nervously looking over their shoulder as the power balance shifts in the region.
This week it emerged that Saudi Arabia had moved warplanes into Turkish air bases and there is talk of them launching some kind of ground offensive in Syria to support the Sunni rebels.
So what started out as a proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Turkey on one side against Shia Iran backed by Russia on the other could quickly escalate into World War Three.
If that happens, the tide of migrants and refugees that have already seen heading into Europe will be dwarfed by a new exodus of perhaps tens of millions of people.
So where does that leave the UK? First of all we should be realistic. Without American power, and with our own armed forces run down to the ground by successive governments, there isn’t much we can do.
Shia and Sunni have been slaughtering each other for almost 1,400 years – and there is little we can do to persuade Muslims to be more tolerant towards one another.
We should however look to our own security – and that is why the carefully choreographed charade taking place in Brussels is a complete irrelevance.
Despite solemn promises at the time of the election last May, David Cameron has not fundamentally re-ordered our relationship with the EU. There is no treaty change, no return of powers to our elected representatives in Westminster and crucially our borders will remain wide open.
What little the Prime Minister did ask of Brussels is currently being watered down to homeopathic levels. Whatever “deal” Cameron returns with won’t make the blindest bit of difference to anything.
The EU is dying. The Schengen open borders agreement is in tatters and the euro has done nothing other than to permanently impoverish half of Europe. Cameron’s frenzied re-ordering of the deck chairs isn’t going to save this sinking ship.
Instead we should secure ourselves by preparing for the inevitable contagion that will spread to Europe as the Middle East descends further into mediaeval barbarity.
And that means regaining some control over our borders before it is too late.