Thursday, January 2, 2014

A World Without a Leader

One might argue that 2013 was not such a bad year. The stock market soared and the economy improved. Republicans received a gift that keeps on giving, Obamacare. Luckily for them, they didn’t even have to do anything to profit from it.

While most people are celebrating, a handful of seeming malcontents are looking beyond our borders. They do not like what they see.

This morning we read three converging views of the state of the world. None of them sees very much good happening across the glove. They see significant and gathering dangers. They all believe that the fault lies with  the Obama administration.

Like it or not, the American president has been the world’s captain since the end of World War II. Until Barack Obama, that is. Unfortunately, a ship without a captain can only advance for so long on autopilot.

Politically speaking, it is easier for the general public to see a leader going wrong when he is doing something. It is far more difficult to see him as derelict when he is sitting on the sidelines not doing anything.

First, Lech Walesa, a man who made history, was asked his views of President Obama in a CNN interview. The network reported his answer:

"When he was elected... there was great hope," Walesa said. ".... we were hoping Obama would reclaim moral leadership for America," adding: "That failed."

".... in terms of politics and morality, America no longer leads the world," he said. "...America did not regain its leadership status. We were just lucky there were no big conflicts in the world," saying the world has relied on a strong America to maintain the balance of power around the globe.

Second, Dan Henninger wrote this in the Wall Street Journal this morning:

As the year turns, the subject becoming impossible to duck is growing global disorder. The days before the New Year brought two suicide bombings in Russia and a major political assassination in Lebanon. Throw a dart randomly at a map of the Middle East or Southeast Asia and it will hit trouble….

Whether the world in 2014 will tip from containment to chaos or war is not the subject here. The subject is rediscovering the antidote to war, which is strong global leadership. The world we inhabit now doesn't have enough of it. Or any of it for that matter.

It’s not just President Obama who is failing to lead. To Henninger, other Western leaders are not doing any better:

The West's leaders are distracted or disinterested. President François Hollande has the lowest approval rating of any French head of state in 50 years. Angela Merkel can't extend her leadership beyond Germany's borders.

Only one thing really matters in an unsettled world: the quality of U.S. leadership. And so amid global unease came the disturbingly smug selfie photo of Barack Obama, David Cameron and the prime minister of Denmark at the Mandela funeral.

Of the three or four phrases from this presidency that will live past 2016 … is that in the affairs of the world, Mr. Obama was leading from behind. What this often means is that the American president goes with the flow of opinion polls.

Whether it is “leading from behind” or the smug “selfie” that Obama sent during the Nelson Mandela funeral, the American presidency is currently occupied by a self-important man who has no interest in exercising world leadership.

Third, Michael Ledeen takes it one step further and writes that President Obama has abrogated his authority because he believes that America as the world’s problem not its solution.

Ledeen paints a grim picture:

At the end of last year, President Obama was in Hawaii. French President Hollande was in Saudi Arabia, whose leaders openly declare their contempt for American leaders. Obama is basically having fun. Hollande and the royal family are basically doing strategy. They are designing actions to advance their interests in the new world;  not, as is often said, a world without America, but a world in which American leaders have turned against America.

The world is painfully coming to grips with something that no one could begin to imagine before 2009: a world in which America’s leaders are opposed to the America of the past, and opposed to traditional American values. Leaders who think America has been a force for evil, and consequently must be restrained, weakened, and disarmed if possible.  Leaders who embrace our enemies, and ditch our old friends.  Leaders who support Iranian tyrants when the Iranian people take to the streets, risking everything for democracy.  Leaders who release men who murdered American soldiers, and who demand the Israelis do the same.  Leaders who enable Syria’s Assad to prevail, and who favor the likes of Turkey’s Erdogan as our privileged interlocutor. Leaders who embrace Venezuela’s Chavez, and who support an anti-democratic coup in Honduras, and who do all they can to empower the Muslim Brotherhood, who hate us and want us dead or dominated.


Sam L. said...

The "world" has hailed and hated American leadership. Those who've railed against it have gotten what they wanted. The old saying, "Beware what you wish for; you may get it" seems to be coming true.

JP said...

This is pretty much the classic flow of the history of the West since the 1500's, so this is basically both predictable and unavoidable.

I think it really has little to do with Obama, and more to do with the the way the West, as a culture-civilization works.

It's a standard-issue delegimation phase of Great Power politics.

Recruiting Animal said...

Henninger criticizing the selfie at the funeral reminds me of reporters complaining whenever any president plays golf.

Unless they are totally deluded by their own self-righteousness they know it's shallow and unfair rabble-rousing.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Actually, Michelle Obama was not very impressed by the selfie either. Making light of a funeral-- and showing disrespect-- is not the same as playing golf.

Katielee4211 said...

Ledeen pretty much summed it up, didn't he? And in that summary you see what a fundamentally changed America looks like.

JP, I will disagree. Not that there weren't concerns previously, but Obama has been a catalyst and full participant in that decline-- maybe even its deliberate destruction.

Ares Olympus said...

It seems resentment as the most damaging filter of honest perception and analysis of reality. If you feel resentment, you need scapegoats, and if you can find an echo chamber to listen to your greviences, then you don't have to do anything but keep passively waiting, keep stirring the hatred and contempt until everyone finally sees, like amazing grace, our enemies will see how they have hurt us and repent.

sestamibi said...

It is this way because the population of what we for the time being call "The United States of America" is this way, and fully approves of withdrawing from the world.

The majority of births for the past two years have been non-white, and their parents are quite happy to see the triumph of Third World barbarism.

Dennis said...

Ares Olympus,

Very nice analyzation of Obama and many of those who surround him. That has always been the approach of much of the Left. The difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution.
There is a growing disconnect between Obama's perception of the US and the reality of the US.
I would gladly pay Obama to play golf a lot more. I would even pay the Congress to go on all kinds of junkets. The more they are out of DC the less damage they can do to us.

Ares Olympus said...

Dennis, political lessons #1 - we're all hypocrites, and project our own shadow issues onto strawmen rivals. The reality might be we're all conservatives when we feel threatened, and we're all progressives when we want something, and never notice the contradiction that we'll take the exact opposite side when someone else is threatened or wants something.

Dennis said...

Ares Olympus,

I would suggest that we have a differing opinion of the substance of the link included. You might want to go back and watch again to what is actually being said. It is not anywhere as closed minded as I believe you are intimating.
On the 5 measures Conservatives take all 5 into consideration, but liberals only take 2 into most of their consideration. French Revolution vice American Revolution. I would suggest a reading of the dialogue between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine.
As a Conservative I am far more sanguine about our ability to solve issues because , for the most part, I see the value of all 5 functions instead of only elevating just the 2.
I have to admit I did respond because I was interested in what your real intent was in the above comments. The closing of the mind, which has taken over the Left, is exactly why we are as divided as we are in this country. It is in many ways the point that the speaker was trying to emphasize.
I have yet to ascertain whether I am a Conservative or a Libertarian. We cannot so easily be placed in these categories. That is why I find your political lesson #1 not relevant to any real discussion of the issues or just being human.

Ares Olympus said...


My hope is the lesson that we're all hypocrites ought to teach us that we have to be careful who we listen to uncritically. I'm not sure how to give good political analysis, I'm only sure that bad political analysis is the kind that preaches to the chior, and keep them in a safe protective bubble of ignorance.

I hoped Haidt's presentation would open liberal minds into seeing their reductive judgements of conservatives motives are unhelpful, like you suggest.

The other enlightening perspective I find from Adam Curtis, and his "Century of Self" program documenting the power of Freud's knowledge of the unconscious via Edward Bernays to manipulate people. Curtis takes things over the top, but he makes it clear that if individualism is to have any purpose, it must be to challenge people to question.

My own conservative is more towards conservation, and a belief we're a young culture who broke open our parent's liquor cabinent of fossil fuels, and held a big party, and think we're masters of the universe because we're so popular. So I stand with E.F. Schumacher - we don't know anything at all until we can run society with deficit spending a million years of stored and concentrated solar energy every year.

So I think the libertarians are as corrupted by their idealism (individual freedom) as much as the liberals are corrupted by theirs (spending other people's money). Both fail to see their dependence on ever growth consumtpion and destruction to keep the economic engine going another year.

Ares Olympus said...

I found the video:

Adam Curtis: The Century of the Self