The most-discussed article of the week will surely be Ryan Lizza’s report on the development of the Obama foreign policy in the New Yorker, called “The Consequentialist.” The notable quote in the piece comes at the end:
One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength.
The crystallizing phrase “leading from behind” may not be something you’ll see on a sign at the 2012 Democratic convention, but it will almost certainly be in the acceptance speech of the nominee of the Republican party at its 2012 convention, and will be thrown in Obama’s face during the presidential debates by his GOP rival, and will be the centerpiece of the critique of Obamaism going forward. It’s so revealing, in fact, that I wouldn’t be surprised if the White House goes on a hunt to find the person who said it in order to defenestrate him before he does more colossal damage to his boss’s chances of reelection.
More to come on this unexpectedly revealing article later today. Leading from behind. Hoo boy.