CRACKS IN THE LIBERAL ORDER, as spotted by Ross Douthat:

Europe’s extremes gained, in part, because in 2015 the center was unusually feckless. Angela Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders to a million Middle Eastern refugees earned her the praise of her globalist peers. But it also pushed a fast-forward button on long-term trends threatening the liberal project in Europe — the challenge of Islam, the pressure of migration from Africa, the danger of backlash in countries with little experience of mass assimilation.

In the process, Merkel handed ammunition to the argument, expressed in artistic form in Michel Houellebecq’s novel “Submission,” that late-modern liberalism might have a certain tendency toward suicide. And she did so at a moment when both the Islamic State and Vladimir Putin’s Russia were supplying evidence that the liberal project can be at least temporarily defied.

Yes, ISIS probably won’t endure, and Putin’s ambitions exceed his grasp. But by pulling volunteers from Western countries and inspiring terrorists from Paris to San Bernardino, the would-be caliphate has provided a new template for revolts against modernity. And by playing power politics in his near abroad and the Middle East, Putin has helped make the Pax Americana look more fragile than at any point since 1989.

Putin’s had plenty of help from Obama, Kerry, and Hillary making the Pax Americana look fragile, of course, and I’m not sure why a CTL-F brings up no mention of Obama in Douthat’s otherwise pretty good essay. But it’s easy to be overlooked when you’re a semi-retired president who’s kicking back, chillaxing, and counting down the days until you can hit the rubber foie gras circuit and really cash in.

In the meantime, as Scott Johnson writes at Power Line, “Cry, the Schlonged Country.”