David Remnick (New Yorker): …. ‘Leading from behind’ …. The phrase ricocheted from one Murdoch-owned editorial page and television studio to the next; Obama was daily pilloried as a timorous pretender who, out of a misbegotten sense of liberal guilt, unearned self-regard, and downright unpatriotic acceptance of fading national glory, had handed over the steering wheel of global leadership to the Élysée Palace.
We were, as Mitt Romney put it, “following the French into Libya.” The President was “dithering,” Sarah Palin declared. John McCain wanted boots on the ground. ….. Rick Perry, for his part, shot an elephant in his pajamas.
Six months later, as Libyans rejoice at the prospect of a world without an unhinged despot, many of Obama’s critics still view a President who rid the world of Osama bin Laden (something that George Bush failed to do) and helped bring down Muammar Qaddafi (something that Ronald Reagan failed to do) as supinely selling out American power.
….. a more apt description, admittedly, would have been “leading from behind the scenes” ….
….. Nothing guarantees that Libya’s path will be straight and pacific …. But these emergent institutions were developed above all by Libyans, not by Ahmed Chalabi or the Central Intelligence Agency. They are indigenous; they have legitimacy.
….. The trouble with so much of the conservative critique of Obama’s foreign policy is that it cares less about outcomes than about the assertion of America’s power and the affirmation of its glory. In the case of Libya, Obama led from a place of no glory, and, in the eyes of his critics, no results could ever vindicate such a strategy. Yet a calculated modesty can augment a nation’s true influence. Obama would not be the first statesman to realize that it can be easier to win if you don’t need to trumpet your victory.
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