[Forbes] The criticism of Forbes dropping Barack Obama to the number two spot behind Vladimir Putin as the most powerful man in the world misses two big points.
One is confusing the power of the U.S. with the power of our President. The U.S. is many times larger economically and militarily than Russia. There’s no disputing that. Our survey was a ranking of people,not countries or companies.
Obama has been weakened politically by the botched introduction of the health exchanges, people’s outrage over being lied to about being able to maintain their existing policies and the deepening malaise over the lagging economy. But to the President what matters is that his power grabs have not been rolled back.
Internationally, however, Obama is the weakest President of the post-World War II years. Even the in-over-his-head Jimmy Carter was more of a factor in foreign affairs than Barack Obama. Diplomats are still astonished, for instance, at how little prep work Obama engages in before international conferences. He doesn’t arrive with much of an agenda, nor does he interact with other leaders in advance to line up support. He more or less just shows up.
This is deliberate. The President truly believes the U.S. has been a malignant force in the world and therefore wants to reduce our footprint on the world stage to something the size of Belgium’s or Albania’s, which is why Britain and France took the lead on Libya and the U.S. “led from behind.” When massive, anti-government demonstrations erupted in Iran in 2009, Obama gave no support to the dissidents. The perception that the world’s superpower is fecklessly passive is what led Saudi Arabia, a rich yet vulnerable state that has relied on close relations with Washington to preserve its existence for over half a century, to publicly distance itself from Uncle Sam. China is now convinced that the U.S. is a declining power, which could lead to serious miscalculations by not only Beijing but also its neighbors, specifically Japan and South Korea. If Tokyo and Seoul believe the U.S. is withdrawing from the world stage, they will start preparing to build nuclear arms.
And this gets to the real danger in President Obama’s deliberately weak overseas-power posture. He may wish he could take the U.S. off the world stage, but the world won’t let him; events will erupt that will force U.S. action. One such possibility is Iran reaching nuclear-bomb capability. Do you think Israel today, after Obama’s red line to Syria and his groveling before Iran, really believes that this White House has its back?