THE BLOG
08/28/2014 07:52 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2014

Leading From Behind, and Proud of It

Egypt and the UAE went forward with air strikes against Islamists in Libya without informing the United States. They did this presumably because they are concerned with the growing influence of Islamist extremists in their region of the world. No doubt their concerns don't exist in a vacuum; the whole world is watching as Islamists garner more control in Iraq and Syria. Apparently America is supposed to be upset about the move because we should have been informed. The thought is that we've provided some of the weaponry, so we should have a say. There's also the uncomfortable truth that America may just need to get over its own sense of paternalism if we really want to stay out of conflict.

Poll after poll shows an American populace that does not favor intervention overseas. It's become quite clear since the downturn of the economy that we have enough to work on here at home without getting into multibillion-dollar conflicts. So we don't want to intervene, but we don't want to be left out either. The favorite saying of what I would call war hawks is that this is what happens when America "leads from behind."

Well, here's my question: Why do we have to lead at all?

I would argue that at this point and time we are in no position to lead anyone. We have record -low unemployment, the middle class that once defined the American dream is dissipating, and we have social issues bubbling under the surface that we should probably start to address. We have serious infrastructure needs that need to be met, and plenty of ingrown homeland-security challenges I'm positive our military could focus on (not to mention millions of families who would be grateful not to send off their loved ones into dubious wars).

I understand that America has serious political interests in the Middle East beyond oil. I understand that leaving the area completely is a pipe dream, largely because leaving Israel to its own devices at this point would be like leaving a kid in the desert to fend for herself. That said, isn't that kind of what Americans did when we declared independence? Or when we fought our incredibly deadly civil war? What if the superpower of the time got involved in our own now-infamous civil conflict? What if we were not allowed to fight it out but were forced to form ourselves under the influence of a foreign culture that no one understood?

That is what we have been doing in the Middle East, and it is time to stop. It is time to let regional powers figure out their own regional conflicts, and it is time for America to begin addressing our own. We have thousands of people trying to get into our country because the situation below our border is so dire, partially for reasons that are well within our control (e.g., the drug war). Maybe we don't see that problem as just as much of a threat as those in the Middle East, but we should. As we have seen with the latest incident at the Texas border, we can only ignore our neighbors for so long as we toil along overseas.

The interests are strong, and the history is thick, but I, for one, am happy that Egypt and the UAE made a unilateral decision without us. I am happy that Egypt orchestrated the Israeli/Palestinian ceasefire. I am glad that we are starting to "lead from behind" in the rest of the world, because maybe that means we can lead our own country.