From Iraq to Ukraine: The disaster of Obama's world

Above all else, leadership is about being there, having your hand firmly on the rudder and letting everyone know what you stand for and what you won't stand for. Sound like Barack Obama? Nope

Whose world would you prefer?
the commentator
On 13 June 2014 08:13

Well, we now have a pretty good idea of what the world looks like when American leadership is withdrawn. We are simultaneously reminded of what happens when a power vacuum opens up: it gets filled.

From Ukraine, through Afghanistan and Iraq all the way to the East China Sea, the world's dictatorships and terror groups smell weakness in Washington. They have adjusted their posture accordingly.

To be sure, any one of those conflict zones, and all the others besides, were problematic to start with. On that most toxic of all modern conflicts, the Iraq war, we have long been of the opinion that reasonable people can disagree about whether the 2003 intervention was the right course of action or whether aggressive containment might have been a better option.

But simply washing one's hands of Iraq would have been as irresponsible in 2003 as it is today, when the increasingly hopeless Obama administration appears to have been taken by surprise at the consequences of its own incompetence.

There were never going to be any easy options in Iraq, or for that matter in Ukraine, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Leadership is not about things being easy. It's about taking the really tough decisions, and sometimes getting things wrong. But above all else it's about being there, having your hand firmly on the rudder, and letting everyone know what you stand for and what you won't stand for.

Sound like Barack Obama? No, actually, it doesn't. And that's the core problem. No-one is blaming Obama for the existence of ISIS, the Islamist terror group now running riot in Iraq, where we did intervene, and in Syria where we didn't.

It's not that ISIS exists, it's what they have become in response to the power vacuums that Obama has allowed to be created. Maybe there is nothing we could have done. But throwing one's hands in the air and shrugging one's shoulders is a sure fire way to guarantee the ascendance of the bad guys.

That applies to ISIS. It applies to the Taliban. It applies to Vladimir Putin's Russia, and it applies to China.

Again, don't expect a world with strong American leadership to be easy. Don't expect straight lines or an absence of complexity.

But without American leadership, do expect things to deteriorate rapidly. Don't take our word for it. Just look around you.

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