When President Roosevelt “Led From Behind”

Those of us who either remember WWII and the Presidency of Franklin Roosevelt or who have a fair knowledge of military history, can recall when President Roosevelt engaged in “leading from behind.” He wasn’t alone in adopting this policy of course as it was also followed by virtually every American President starting with our first, George Washington as he led the American Revolution from behind, just as Jack Kennedy led from behind during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Ronald Reagan led from behind when dealing with the Russians during the Cold War and George Bush led from behind when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Yes, leading from behind is an all-American tradition, which is why President Obama, following the precedence of virtually every American President is having such great success in dealing with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and convincing the psychopathic Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL) to respect international law, human rights and to murder children in a humane manner.

Please forgive my sarcasm but what passes for foreign policy and strategy in the Obama administration brings out my dark side. Last week the President of the United States admitted before the entire world that he was essentially clueless, having no strategy to deal with ISIL, the Russians or any other international problem. Then he went back to playing golf, just as he did the week before when he issued a statement condemning the barbarity of ISIL after they savagely murdered journalist James Foley and recorded it for the Internet. He was back on the golf course in less than 10 minutes after making that statement, allowing himself to be photographed “yucking it up” with his golf pals even as major networks broadcast a tearful statement from Foley’s parents.

As a comparison of what we used to have as Presidents, Franklin Roosevelt faced an enemy of cataclysmic capabilities. The Nazis and the Imperial Japanese were running amok in Europe and Asia. Hitler’s Germany swallowed Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Greece, Yugoslavia and were biting off large chunks of Russia between 1938 and 1941. Within the conquered nations the populations were reduced to slavery, minorities slaughtered along with political and military leaders and barbaric “medical experiments” instituted by medical psychopaths upon the politically dispossessed, including children. In Asia, the Imperial Japanese Army massacred tens of thousands in conquered lands, starting with China in 1937 and were engaged in mass rape, butchery and savagery not seen since the Mongols swept across Asia and Europe in the Middle Ages.

During all of this time, the American public, in political polling, were adamant that such atrocities were none of our concern and demanded Congress vote accordingly. Roosevelt  recognized the threat, coaxed and cajoled both congress and the public, through “fireside chats,” leading the public discourse by explaining the need to build up our Navy to protect our shores, doubling the Navy and Army in 1940. He persuaded congress to allow “lend lease,” providing 50 aging destroyers to escort convoys across the Atlantic. He used the analogy of a neighbors’ house being on fire and lending him a hose to fight the fire; it made sense to Americans. By 1941, Roosevelt ordered the Navy to engage German Submarines to sink them on sight. This led to engagements in the North Atlantic between U.S. Navy Destroyers and Nazi submarines; several American warships were torpedoed and one sunk. Roosevelt didn’t falter; when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December, 1941, America was committed to the mobilization required to wage global war against barbarians. Roosevelt led from the front, never from behind.

So too has every other great American President. Washington displayed battlefield courage continuously at great personal risk; he never quit despite the most desperate circumstances.

Jack Kennedy faced down the Russians, preventing the deployment of nuclear missiles just 90 miles off our shores at tremendous risk, yet he didn’t falter, nor did he play golf during the crisis.

President Reagan challenged the Soviets at every opportunity, often against the advice of the State Department “professionals;” Reagan armed Soviet opponents and stood with dissidents.

In 1990, President George Bush stood up to Saddam Hussein, leading America to a military victory in just 100 hours over the 4th largest Army in the world. American leadership was unchallenged; when America spoke, the world listened.

Today, President Obama abandons allies, including the unprecedented withholding of military re-supply to Israel during conflict; abandons Americans and allies in foreign prisons, like Marine Sergeant Tahmooressi in Mexico, USAID contractor Alan Gross in Cuba, Dr. Afridi, who gave us Bin Laden in Pakistan, imprisoned after Obama’s administration released his name. Last week, Egypt and Saudi Arabia bombed Libyan rebels; and the US was not informed and therefore didn’t know about it . How far our nation has fallen, as President Obama “leads from behind.”

Al Fonzi
5th District Chairman, Republican Party, SLO County
President, SLO County Lincoln Club

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