Leading from the front - Monocolumn | Monocle


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11 August 2014

It seems as though the entire world is going up in flames. We have the continuing crisis in eastern Ukraine, which is pitting Russian interests against a wall from the West, the Middle East is in complete chaos and a deadly disease threatens east Africa. So as the world watches and waits to see what the various outcomes might be, it is good to see Barack Obama finally coming out from under his shell to show some leadership.

Late last week, Obama announced that the US would not stand by and watch Islamist militants threaten the safety and security of Iraq and that the US would assist the Iraqi government with air strikes. But perhaps more important was the language that the President used to describe the humanitarian crisis. He said that the US would act “carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide”. This is some of the strongest and most forceful language Obama has ever used when it comes to foreign policy. It is refreshing to see the President and the White House finally act decisively on a global crisis – reasserting US leadership – something that has been long overdue.

We all know that Obama came into office promising a new era of American influence in the world but more importantly he hoped to end two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the subsequent six years we’ve seen the President shy away from a number of big geopolitical issues. He’s been criticised over his stance on everything from the civil war in Syria to his inability to stand up to Vladimir Putin. So seeing Obama stand up last week and take a strong role over Iraq was a welcome change. But it begs the question: what took so long?

There are so many different variables that you could argue are the reason – whether those are domestic policy considerations or maybe the President just isn’t a foreign policy kind of guy? Whatever the issue, with much of the world in crisis, many still view the US as that shining light on the hill. If Obama wants to get the light shining he’ll need to give us more examples of what he did last week – acting decisively and with purpose. He only has two more years, so make them burn bright.

Phil Han is a producer for Monocle 24


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