On March 28, Barack Obama went on television to inform his people and the world about America’s objective in the war on Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi.
One theme the president emphasized was leadership. “To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and—more profoundly—our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” he stated (emphasis mine throughout). Mr. Obama recalled America’s historic role as a world leader and affirmed that America would uphold its leadership responsibilities in Libya.
Though the speech was articulate, it was not convincing. The attempt to cast America as a leader in Libya was a flop. Aside from the fact that it came nine days too late, it was undermined by the reality that the White House had for days, even weeks, been attempting to unload its leadership responsibilities in Libya.
Under U.S. leadership, it took more than three weeks to get a UN resolution to enter Libya. When the resolution finally did arrive, France and Britain led the military operations. Meanwhile, as fighter jets dropped thousands of pounds of ordnance over Libya, allied partners bickered over the scope and objective of the campaign. After the mission had been under way for more than a week, apparently under “U.S. leadership,” allied partners still hadn’t agreed on who was in charge, or even what their ultimate strategic objective was.
Why the confusion? The dissension, Charles Krauthammer noted, was “purely the result of Obama’s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command.” Indeed, Operation Odyssey was less than 48 hours old when the president told the world he was ready to transfer America’s responsibilities to nato—within “days, not weeks.” The remark set off intense squabbling as allied powers wrestled over who would lead in the absence of clear, decisive leadership from the world’s most militarily powerful nation!
German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel observed, “The indecisive, sometimes helpless dealing with the uprisings of the West in North Africa is a testament to the American withdrawal from world affairs.” Harvard historian Niall Ferguson said that the Libya affair exposed “a president without a strategy.” Krauthammer observed that the U.S. administration was “obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation” and with “handing off the lead role.”
Tagesspiegel also noted that America’s relative disinterest is evident in more than just Libya. Consider Washington’s conduct in all the major crises lately—in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. In each case, the U.S. has acted like a third-rate power. It has failed to tackle the issues with force and determination, with clarity of vision and purpose, with the confidence and vigor of a superpower. Instead, its response in virtually every case has been late, ill-informed or hastily conceived, morally or politically shallow, or downright irresponsible. And, most significantly, it has willfully passed leadership to someone else.
One of the most significant lessons from the traumatic events thus far in 2011—and a reality that has surely been seen around the world—is that the United States no longer possesses the desire to be a global leader.
Experts have given a number of reasons why. They say Washington has multiple domestic problems to deal with, that it lacks the resources to lead on every issue. But the conclusion drawn by others—that abdicating global leadership has become a fundamental goal of U.S. foreign policy—is startling. Nevertheless, look at the evidence.
This is the “Obama conception of the U.S. role in the world,” stated White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes in the midst of the Libya debacle: “to work through multilateral organizations and bilateral relationships to make sure that the steps we are taking are amplified.”
The Obama foreign-policy team includes Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg and ambassador to nato Ivo Daalder. In July 2008, these men published a report outlining an “intellectual and policy blueprint for the next administration.” Current U.S. foreign policy is aptly summarized in the report’s concluding sentence: “And such [U.S.] leadership recognizes that in a world in which power has diffused, our interests are best protected and advanced when others step up and at times lead alongside or even ahead of us.”
President Obama said it himself in March. “This is how the international community should work,” he said: “more nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and the cost of upholding peace and security.”
The problem with this approach is now on full display in the Middle East and North Africa. As Daniel Henninger wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “[N]o one has stepped up, no one is leading alongside and our allies are in the rear, accomplishing nothing while they wait for … America.”
In Libya, Washington abdicated its leadership—or, as some would put it, gave others the opportunity to step up and lead. What happened? Chaos and dissension reigned. “At a time when the world is hungry for America to lead,” wrote Krauthammer, “America is led by a man determined that it should not.”
It is now a sad but evident reality that the United States has abandoned its post as a world leader.
As the world’s leading power since World War ii, America has not been above reproach. Despite its shortcomings, however, over the past 200 years it has given mankind some terrific benefits and, for a long while, strong, stable and—compared to most others—charitable leadership.
There is a reason for this. The central reason for America’s wealth and global preponderance is that it has been the recipient of a promise God made to Abraham 3,000 years ago. You can study that promise in Genesis 12. It is a promise of spectacular and unprecedented wealth, power and leadership being bestowed upon Abraham’s descendants, and specifically the United States of America.
Now, however, because of America’s sins, God has removed the strong leaders from this nation and broken the pride of its power (e.g. Isaiah 3:1-4; Leviticus 26:19). The distressing evidence of the fulfillment of this powerful prophecy resounds loudly in these recent events!
God’s promise to Abraham—one of the most far-reaching and important God has ever made—is a theme in our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. If you haven’t already studied this book, request it now. Truly, nothing explains America’s calamitous, yet God-ordained, fall from the heights of global power and affluence like this groundbreaking work. •