Why is President Obama “Leading From Behind?”

Posted: Apr 27, 2011 12:01 AM
Why is President Obama “Leading From Behind?”

The latest New Yorker magazine (May 2, 2011) includes an article by Ryan Lizza that hits a bulls eye in describing President Obama’s leadership. Lizza quotes an Obama adviser who describes the president’s style as “leading from behind.” Lizza explains, “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.”

Let’s run past that again: China’s power is rising while U.S. power is declining. The U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Therefore, we have to be modest and use our military strength with stealth as we pursue our interests and spread our ideals. The U.S. is being reviled, and we are supposed to stand by “modestly” and let the falsehoods define us? Somehow the logic doesn’t follow there; the U.S. gains power by acting powerless? We act modestly around those who revile us, even though no nation in the history of the world has so selflessly and sacrificially helped liberate oppressed people? Have the folks spreading these ideas ever interacted with a bully? Most of us learned by 6th grade that you have to stand up to bullies or they will run over you. Experience shows that the only way to counter a falsehood is to loudly speak the truth. How about a reality check?

The United States is the top contributor to the United Nations (U.N.) — giving $6.35 billion to the U.N. in 2009, according to the latest available data compiled by the Obama administration. We overpaid our share of the U.N. peacekeeping budget for 2010-2011.

The U.S. just forked over $150 million in economic assistance to Egypt to help that key U.S. ally transition towards democracy following the overthrow of longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

In spite of budget cuts this year, the U.S. is giving an additional $126.8 million to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This adds to the more than $285 million already given. This money helps refugees return to Afghanistan and Sudan (among other countries) and provides them with basic needs such as water, food, health care, and education. That money is divided: $50 million to the Middle East, $40 million to Africa, and $23 million to Asia.

America is a generous nation. According to Giving USA, American giving reached $303.75 billion in 2009. The average annual household contribution is $2,213, while the mean is $870. Fully 65 percent of American households give to charity.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development keeps track of official giving (by governments and government agencies) with the money going for economic development and welfare and with favorable loan terms. Under those conditions, the countries giving the highest amounts of money (in absolute terms):

1. United States: $28.67 billion

2. France: $12.43 billion

3. Germany: $11.98 billion

4. United Kingdom: $11.50 billion

5. Japan: $9.48 billion

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2010, more than a quarter (26.3 percent) of Americans volunteered for an organization at least once in the prior year — this numbered 62.8 million people.

While U.S. policies abroad are not always popular, particularly with the world’s tyrant-leaders, average citizens abroad seem to be far more concerned, with good reason, about the pollution of their cultures by so-called American values — those attitudes and behaviors that are so virulent in the popular culture in the U.S. and are showcased in American media, music, and entertainment. We export the worst of Western “civilization.” Is it any wonder other nations are concerned about “American” influence? A 2005 University of North Texas study, “Why do they hate us?” provides interesting and, perhaps surprising, reasons for other nations “reviling” us. The negative responses described Americans as “quite violent,” “sexually immoral,” “materialistic,” “dominate other people,” and “engage in criminal activities.” Americans were not rated highly regarding having religious values, being concerned about the poor, or having strong family values.

I won’t even go into the vile way that the U.S. exports radical leftist ideology via the considerable influence of our radical non-governmental organizations and the Obama political appointees at the United Nations — pushing “women’s rights” quotas, lesbian/homosexual behaviors, and abortion-on-demand as a requirement for receiving the U.N.’s humanitarian aid; nor will I detail all the ways that the U.N. practices “modern colonialism” in foisting off the worst of Western values via member nations’ delegates as a requirement for involvement.

A Google search reveals very little written about the positive influence and nation-building results of American missionaries, American philanthropy, and American corporations in foreign lands, and much of what is on Google is negative, yet the sacrificial contributions of thousands of missionaries, volunteers, and businessmen to nations — in lives transformed, hospitals built and medical services provided, schools built and children taught, etc. — is enormous. While our political leaders have at times made their share of errors, their record, generally, and the record of America’s citizens in voluntarily providing a helping hand around the world is worthy of praise. There is really no way to calculate America’s response to natural disasters around the world — nor is it necessary to do so — but, Americans are typically the first there and the last to leave. American citizens are extraordinarily generous in responding to the needs of other nations when tragedy strikes.

Yes, we need to “clean up” the terrible influence of our popular culture — not just for the sake of foreign nations who don’t like the cultural pollution that we export, but for the sake of our own children and the broader society’s future. Despite the negatives, America remains the hope of those in need of assistance. And as the numbers show, we do a pretty good job when natural disasters strike. The world’s countless victims of political oppression can attest: our record is good, though not flawless. No, we can’t always be policeman to the world, rushing in to right every wrong. But when tyrants murder their people or genocide occurs, those nations revile America –– the last hope of the world's suffering people –– not for interfering, but for not being up to the task of ending their oppression.

In short, the oppressed of the world are not asking America to lead from behind.

It’s time for us to get “out front” by unapologetically talking about the good things that our nation does to combat the lies of despotic bullies; only by building a favorable climate of opinion will we be able to maintain a stable world order. It is also time for us to showcase something other than the vulgar displays of celebrities, entertainers, and sports figures: the virtuous lives of American citizens caring for the needy vividly demonstrates that life is sacred and liberty is priceless. The work of legions of Americans helped spread religious freedom and human rights around the world.

For this nation’s history of deeds of compassion of such multitude, America owes no apology to the world.

We do owe a debt to those who paid the ultimate price for this nation — to honestly tell any and all who we are and what we stand for both as people of God and citizens of America.