Mindless, Reckless "Leadership"

From the indispensable Daniel Larison writing at the American Conservative, some thoughts on why we should be a lot more careful with the conflation of aggressive posturing and "leadership" in regard to foreign affairs and the internal affairs of other countries. He is speaking, of course, in reference to the liberal hawks and neocons who think every conflict in the world is about American "strength" and "weakness."
"The abuse of “leadership” as a concept is in some ways even more obnoxious and misleading than the reliance on the “isolationist” slur. It’s true that hawks typically assume that real “leadership” requires the use of force or at least the threat to use force, but it can also function as a generic euphemism for U.S. hegemony. In this usage, there is really only one kind of international leadership that qualifies, and this is one in which the U.S. is dominant, preeminent, and preoccupied with policing the globe. This tends to view leadership more as an exercise in giving orders and dictating terms.
"The word also serves as an all-purpose, nebulous placeholder as something that can be demanded and whose absence can be lamented without having to make a coherent argument. Calling for “more leadership” can be a way to demand an aggressive and militarized policy without owning up to what one is demanding, or it can be a way to criticize existing policy decisions without having to explain what ought to be done instead. As with its ugly cousin “resolve,” one can always get away with insisting that a particular president isn’t showing enough “leadership” in the world, because there is no way to measure these things and no way for the complaint be remedied. Because it is so ill-defined and frequently abused, it can be applied to every issue without even having to think about the specific details. “Leadership” is always the correct response, and “leadership” can’t fail, because it means everything and nothing at the same time."
It's also perfectly obvious to all the nations of the world that the things the US usually lectures and warns others about are things we ourselves do. We maintain various fantasies about ourselves because doing otherwise would be "blaming" America. But making a realistic assessment is actually necessary for us if we want to have a greater and more effective impact in the the world.

In another piece he offers 12 questions that should be considered when we think we need to weigh in, condemn, or take sides in a given conflict.


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