Opinion: LEADING FROM BEHIND
It is obvious that leading from behind has not worked as well as our president had hoped. One need only to pay a little attention to what is happening in the world to realize that.
The sad truth is that leading from behind is not leading at all. It is merely being present. I am reminded of a quote from a well-known leader and writer about leadership and leading, John W. Gardner. He wrote, “Executives are given subordinates, they must earn followers.”
I believe that the same applies for countries.
How often have we seen an individual who appeared to have the “right stuff” but failed to produce? Talk is cheap especially when it is necessary for needed actions to solve a problem. No one is perfect, but one expects a designated leader to learn from experiences and, as a result, adjust his approach. Unfortunately, that has not been the case with this president. He continues to make the same mistakes especially when it concerns foreign policy.
Friends should be encouraged and opponents (enemies) should be opposed. That is so basic that it should not need any type of explanation, but apparently it does with the current occupant of the White House.
The majority of my experiences are in the military where the troops can be very discerning about leadership and who their leader is, especially in combat.
Perhaps some of the disfunction in the administration is that there are so few key advisors with military experience. I know. He has the joint chiefs, but when has he ever listened to them?
When one truly considers it, almost all of his key advisors have no experience except in government or academia. Both of those can be very protective and safe. Iraq was won and its elected government was functioning when President Obama decided to pull out all of our troops. Iraq is now a disaster and becoming more dangerous all the time.
In Syria, President Obama has been very clear that he wanted Assad out as the head of the government, but he has done little to make that happen. Since we did very little in Syria and even less in Iraq, ISIS was born and now controls large portions of both Syria and Iraq. We supposedly are using air strikes against ISIS, but they appear to be pinpricks compared to what they could be. Russia has taken advantage of our lack of leadership by building a military base in Syria and flying in military aircraft for support. Syria is a client state of Russia, and Putin intends to ensure that his client survives. To add to the confusion, Iran is sending ground troops to Syria to fight ISIS. When vacuums are created, they are filled and when our government decided to lead from behind, others filled the vacuum.
Russia is now conducting air strikes supposedly against ISIS, but these strikes are not in areas occupied by ISIS but rather are aimed at fighters that we support. These fighters are against both ISIS and Assad. Our military has trained extensively for the use of close air support, especially the Marine Corps, and we still screw it up occasionally. I doubt that the Russians have trained as much and it is just a matter of time before something happens that will cause the United States and Russia to face each other.
What is happening in Syria and our dealings with Iran has not gone unnoticed by the other countries in the area or potential enemies throughout the world. China and North Korea are being much more aggressive since they believe that any actions that they take will have no consequences from the United States. That can only last so long before something must be done.
When an adversary believes that he can be very aggressive and it is to his advantage, he continues to be aggressive until he is confronted. Remember the schoolyard bully. He only stopped when he was confronted and challenged.
This is the same only on a greater scale.
Donald J. Myers is a retired Marine colonel and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org