Is “leading from behind” working?

“Coincidentally enough, Saudi Arabia announced a new Islamic alliance to fight terrorism that will share information and train, equip, and provide forces for the fight against the Islamic State. The 34-nation Islamic military coalition, which will include Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan, and several African nations, was welcomed by the United States, with Secretary Carter stating that he looked forward to “learning more about what Saudi Arabia has in mind.” The new coalition, according to a statement carried by Saudi state news, will have a joint operations center in Riyadh.”

Is Obama making the “coalition” come to him?

I started this post several weeks ago and didn’t finish it.  The more I thought about the title, the more I wondered if any president had the iron nerve required to wait out Middle-Eastern states coming together against ISIL.  I’m still uncertain.

There is ample evidence that the overarching image of the US dominating politics and culture in that part of the world for years forms a strong part of the grievance vital to Islamic radicals’ raison d’etre.  It is a recruiting and inspiring tool across the world.  It has long been a popular position in the US to suggest that states in that part of the world should take responsibility for themselves and not rely so heavily on the US.

This morning in (but elsewhere as well), the above brief paragraph suggests that the people who live in the area are not going to rely on the US so heavily.  While the long-term consequences one might anticipate for this alliance are certainly mixed and there are doubtless unanticipated consequences yet to come, it has the chance of taking the key decisions for their homelands and removing them from the West, the area that has even created some of the countries and set their boundaries.  The US can play a back-up role but need not put itself out front in every situation.

I think this is a positive development, whether it is a “leading from behind” strategy (and, if it is, I never want to play poker with Barack Obama), an accident of history.

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