President Barack Obama is often criticized for weak international leadership, most recently in relations with Russia and the current crisis in Ukraine. Sen. John McCain, for instance—just one of many critics who have joined the attack—described the Obama administration’s unwillingness to supply military hardware to the provisional Ukrainian government as “yet another sign of weakness.”
But there is a difference between being a strong leader and being a wise leader. Self-consciously strong leaders—those who are intent on dominating the policy process both domestically and internationally—are too easily tempted into overreaction, especially militarily, at times of crisis. Obama, thankfully, has managed to avoid that.
What the rest of the world would rather see in the American presidency—and what is in America’s best interest—is not strong leadership but enlightened leadership.