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The L Word

Author: Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow
April 2, 2013
Foreign Policy

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Over the past few months, the Beltway's foreign policy community has offered two broad observations in op-eds and essays on America's role in the world. The first -- repeatedly coveredin this column -- is that the world is one of increasing complexity, instability, and general dystopia. In a twist to his repeated assertion that the world has never been more dangerous, on March 22, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared that "the world is more dangerous, because more people can do us harm." (This implies the world can only become ever more perilous since global population is projected to grow by one billion people over the next dozen years; presumably the Pentagon's Strategic Choices and Management Review will include expanding access to birth control as a key priority.)

The second observation is that we are now suffering a "world on fire" -- as Senator Lindsey Graham described it in February -- primarily because the United States has allowed it to deteriorate. More specifically, President Barack Obama, through his personal inclination or inattention, has let a "vacuum" emerge outside of America's borders, which -- like the earthly portal that brings forth the ancient Sumerian god of destruction, Gozer, at the end of Ghostbusters -- has been filled with mayhem, evil, and darkness. As political scientist Eliot Cohen wrote two weeks ago: "A world in which the U.S. abnegates its leadership will be a world of unrestricted self-help in which China sets the rules of politics and trade in Asia, mayhem and chaos is the order of the day in the Middle East, and timidity and

The proposed solution for a world that has become more dangerous only because the American president allowed it? "Leadership" -- the alleged absence of which is based on the observation of the anonymous Obama adviser who famously told The New Yorker that the administration's approach to Libya was one of "leading from behind." Ever since, whenever a policymaker or pundit observes any foreign policy that they object to, they charge the White House with exercising insufficient leadership. The next time you read some pundit demanding more leadership abroad, there are several assumptions worth bearing in mind.appeasement paralyze the free European states."

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