This past week was a major week in US foreign policy. That’s major with a capital “M.” After the Afghanistan debacle and combined with the fact that the world can see that the Biden administration has no concern for our own nation’s borders, the whole world is watching to see whether or not Biden can address an issue on the border of Ukraine, half a world away. This is an issue that could set US foreign policy back 30 years to the days of the old Soviet Cold War. To be honest I am extremely pessimistic.

Do you remember the movie “Patton?" George C. Scott famously played General George Patton and in one true-life scene Patton was reading German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s book on tank warfare and soon thereafter, in the second battle of Kasserine Pass in North Africa, Patton put a whooping on Rommel. History says that as he watched the battle Patton jumped up and yelled “Rommel, you magnificent SOB …. I read your book!”

Well, Putin has read Biden’s book. We all have. We don’t have to look far to get an idea of how President Biden handles foreign policy crises. Remember, he has already been a part of the White House leadership when he served as Barack Obama’s Vice President. In 2011 an Obama-Biden White House official coined the phrase “leading from behind” to describe the Obama-Biden Libya policy. That “lead from behind” policy resulted in a complete power vacuum in the wake of the overthrow of terrorist dictator Moammar Qaddafi, and even more infamously the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi that saw our Ambassador and several other brave men killed.

During that same Obama-Biden administration, the notion of leading from behind got us the great Russian reset with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that caused the US to reduce its arms while Moscow did nothing. Russia then annexed the Crimean Peninsula unchallenged. That same “lead from behind” strategy caused the US to pull out of Iraq abruptly on a notional timetable and not on a boots-on-the-ground, conditions-based withdrawal. As a result, we came close to losing the Iraqi government and saw the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria that prompted a resurgence of US troops to that region to fight for the same ground again.

“Leading from Behind” saw the Obama-Biden administration enter into massively lopsided deals contrary to US interests, like the climate deal with China which meant China “might” stop increasing carbon emissions if they chose to do so, and a nuclear deal with Iran that caused the US to ship pallets of cash to the Ayatollahs and gain nothing but platitudes from an extremist government that still to this day calls for death to the US and Israel.

National Security and Foreign Policy Expert James Jay Carafano wrote for the Heritage Foundation in 2015 that the Obama-Biden “lead from behind” strategy put the US into full retreat on the world stage.

Now there’s “President Biden” and he’s the man; the Commander-in-Chief and the leader of the free world who last week attempted to play chess with Vladimir Putin in a virtual summit. My concern is that he brought checkers to the chess match.

Satellite imagery shows that Putin has amassed one of the largest staging of troops since WWII on the border of Ukraine. Having watched Biden’s feckless foreign policy, Putin is playing brinksmanship games with the same man who helped develop the “lead from behind” strategy. An estimated 100,000 Russian troops have been massed along Ukraine’s eastern border including all manner of force projection, from light infantry to heavy armor, artillery, air defense and all of the logistical trains required to support them for a major sustainment operation. Satellite imagery shows them parked in orderly rows, scores deep.

Harvard Business Review published a piece 10 years ago on leading from behind. In that overly rosy piece, the author tried to make leading from behind sound a bit more glossy by quoting Nelson Mandela who “equated a great leader with a shepherd: He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

Neat quote. But this is not that. There are no “nimble” others with sufficient leverage to deal with Russia. None. To do so would be an abdication of the leadership role that the US has spent many, many years earning. The notion that, in the broad stakes involved in a foreign policy designed to forestall violent military action, any leader worth their salt is going to win the day by standing in the back and egging others on to do that which we are unwilling to do on our own is not leadership from behind – it is cowardice plain and simple.

The current President does not inspire confidence. In fact, the current President has a legacy of hosing foreign policy and still pretending that it is his strong suit. The current President is a demoralizing example of what happens when someone is elected on personality with no real inkling of ability to effect policy. Joe Biden has had the luxury of never being in charge of anything in his entire adult life. His non-executive career has gifted him the privilege of rhetoric without responsibility.

And once again the same man who was present and responsible for some of the most awful decisions on the world stage - Iran, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Crimea, North Korea - is at the helm for the big game, with every single one of those hot spots still testing him because they’ve read his book. The ramifications of Biden’s lead from behind policies create the potential for second- and third-order effects that could put us in a second Cold War.

Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information