COMMENT

Poise matters

By Alexis Papachelas

A politician who wishes to demonstrate that he is a leader needs two fundamental characteristics: poise and the ability to rely on his instinct.

Poise has been a prerequisite since long before television and social media came on the scene, only nowadays you simply cannot survive without it.

United States President Barack Obama would get an F in the poise category. He appears to simply not have what it takes. How can it be that he openly and publicly states, “We don’t have a strategy yet,” regarding the threat from the Islamic State jihadist group, or that he believes “the world has always been messy” and that we shouldn’t worry too much about it.

A president may utter these words in a closed meeting with his aides and analysts, but when you state your weakness publicly you generate insecurity both among the public and the global elite.

People such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the Chinese leaders, the ayatollahs in Iran and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu draw their own conclusions and move accordingly. If you provoke insecurity in your own country and express a weakness abroad, you’re simply not made of the kind of stuff that makes a player in the international arena.

Quite often a leader must make swift decisions and do so without having all the information spread out in front of him or her. Politicians who made history took major decisions that went against the tide and despite opinion polls.

President Obama always gives the impression of being an “eternal” student who studies a crucial issue over and over again but is unable to reach any decisions. It’s as if he maintains some kind of distance from reality. To be fair, he has shown instances of decisiveness, such as when he gave the green light for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Beyond that, however, I cannot think of another Obama moment which was defined by instinct, when the fire that supposedly burns inside each leader managed to shine through.

Given the circumstances and the decay that the United States is currently experiencing, there is hardly any room for any other type of leader. But when you can’t live up to your position’s basic requirements you allow the rest of the world to realize the kind of power vacuum which is developing in a highly dangerous and volatile environment. And that is the worst part.

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