Time to leave ‘lead from behind’ in past

By Michael Ryan

“I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration.” – Vice President Joe Biden, in 2010

In Iraq and in Syria, as in Libya, where the unofficial Obama Doctrine was written – “leading from behind” – America’s foreign policy is in tatters today.

Iraq’s descent into chaos led to the rise of ISIS, an even more savage incarnation of al-Qaida, and whose real and reputed acts of terror have reached across Europe and the Atlantic.

Libya’s devolution – and the decision to leave our consulate there poorly guarded on Sept. 11, 2012 – led to the deaths of four Americans and the biggest scandal of the Obama administration.

Elsewhere, Russia has annexed Crimea and has cast a lengthening shadow across Ukraine, the Baltics and Eastern Europe.

Our “leading from behind” in Syria – and Mr. Obama’s failure to enforce his own “red line” against Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own people – created a power vacuum in the Mideast that Vladimir Putin gladly and quickly filled. The roiling violence and anarchy there led to a Muslim migration crisis that has consumed Europe in turmoil.


An Iraqi flag waves on the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Jonah, as Mosul City is seen on the background. The revered Muslim shrine was destroyed on 2014 by Islamic State militants who overran the city and imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. The mosque was built on an archaeological site dating back to 8th century BC, and is said to be the burial place of the prophet.

Meanwhile, China has been “asserting itself in the South China Sea,” writes M.G. Oprea at, “most notably by constructing man-made islands in the disputed Scarborough Shoal. By declaring this area, which is home to important international shipping lanes, part of China’s sphere of influence, China is threatening both its neighbors and international trade.”

And while North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is viewed here as little more than a farcical irritation, the irritants in his arsenal now include nuclear weapons.

“I can’t really think of any concrete success that President Obama’s had in terms of foreign policy,” Nile Gardiner, a foreign affairs analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told ‘The Washington Times’. “You can point to an overall weakening of American power on the world stage and an eroding of key alliances.”

Under “lead from behind,” America – like the character George Bailey in the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ – has been given the chance to see what the world would be like without it. And it’s not pretty. This is no time for America to lead from behind.

America must reassert itself – not just militarily, though that must be done after the draconian downsizing of our Armed Forces, sustained in the so-called “sequestration” cuts. The world needs American values, influence and leadership.

Some of our most pressing foreign policy challenges, and what should be done:

• ISIS must be obliterated. It’s amazing that the world’s most powerful nation has been having such a hard time doing it. President Trump must rally the free world to get the job done once and for all.

• While the Obama administration entered into an unratified, and dangerous, nuclear treaty with Iran – and paid the terror-supporting regime at least $11.9 billion, and perhaps three times that – the Trump administration should tear up the deal and take steps to curb Tehran’s regional ambitions.

• After the Obama administration shamefully abstained and let an anti-Semitic United Nations rebuke Israel for its West Bank settlements, the Trump administration should now reaffirm America’s commitment to our close ally and only democratic nation in the region.

• As a related matter, the Trump administration and Congress should consider whether to defund the United Nations unless and until it revokes its most recent anti-Israel resolution.

• Considering that our close allies in Britain have voted to leave the European Union and go it alone – rightly seizing back their sovereignty, their laws and their immigration future – we should make it abundantly clear that the United Kingdom has a friend and trading partner in America.

• Likewise, while insisting on full financial and manpower participation from member states, we should reaffirm our commitment to NATO – one of the most important alliances in history.

• While more carefully screening immigrants and refugees, we must also take the fight to the terrorists – and, once again, muster the courage to recognize the enemy as “Islamic radical terrorists.”

Leading from behind and carefully parsing words hasn’t gotten America anywhere – and it’s gotten much of the world in an atrocious mess.

It’s time to lead from the front.

Michael Ryan is editorial page editor of ‘The Augusta Chronicle’ in Georgia.




A misguided receding of American power and influence has left the Mideast in flames, Europe awash in migrants and Russia and China on the move.
America’s pullback from the war on terror has allowed the Islamic State far too much time and space with which to project terror in Europe and America.
With all the terror and turmoil in the world, the United Nations took time to censor Israel for building homes, of all things.


American power and values bring order to the world. The new administration, mindful of the need to avoid unnecessary military entanglements, must not be shy in using American power and influence in the name of order, peace and justice.
With the help of international partners and the world Islamic community, the Islamic State and all other terror networks must be destroyed.
The U.N.’s outrage against Israel should inspire Congress and the president to determine whether the world body’s questionable priorities and actions are worthy of American values and funding.

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