George Kennan in discussing American foreign policy and democracy notes that we made two big boo-boos during the cold war. (1) to attribute to the “Soviet leadership aims and intentions it did not really have; in jumping to conclusion that the Soviet leaders were just like Hitler and his associates…” with the same aspirations, timetable, and who could only be dealt with in the same manner as Hitler was.  (2) The second postwar mistake was to embrace the nuclear weapon “the mainstay of our military posture, and the faith we placed in it to assure our military and political ascendancy in this postwar era.”
In 2014 it appears that the United States repeated these mistakes (1) to attribute to the Russian leadership aims and intentions that it does not really have; in jumping to conclusion that Putin is just like Stalin and communists. (2) The second mistake it to embrace military instrument of national power as the mainstay of our politico-diplomatic posture despite its limitations in a geopolitical heartland largely outside our strategic reach and capabilities to affect political outcomes.
Question for policy makers: “Is it possible that we may be expecting of Russia [or an other country] higher standards of international conduct than our own?” (Vera Micheles Dean, “Is Russia Alone to Blame?” Foreign Policy Reports, Vol. XXV, March 8, 1946).