Barack Obama received a load of criticism for his preference to “lead from behind.” It was about encouraging others to take some responsibility, and yes, getting some of the glory. It’s the way GHW Bush built a worldwide coalition for the Gulf War—and fought our only war that turned a profit. But he did it by negotiation and finding common ground—not by boasting and bullying and threatening.

We are now turning back to the “Me First” mentality of the 19th century—devoid of trust, which led to so many wars (and economic crises). But the “every man for himself” philosophy is not universal. In some cases, where American has refused to lead, others have worked together without us. Most recently, to thwart American sanctions, countries are building an alternative financial system, initially to try to keep the Iran Nuclear deal intact, as noted in Fortune.

The European Union’s leading countries have finally set up a new channel for payments to Iran, according to reports. The move, which will reportedly be announced later on Thursday, would almost certainly infuriate the U.S., as it would allow the bypassing of American sanctions on Iran.

The EU has always been clear that it would continue trading with Iran despite U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports, and the country’s automotive, commodities, shipping and banking sectors. . .

INSTEX will reportedly be run by the Germans, the French and the British. It will apparently be based in Paris, have a German banking expert at the helm, and a Brit chairing its supervisory board. Other European countries are free to hop on board—the mechanism will take some weeks to become operational.

It should be noted that even America’s intelligence agencies have told Congress that Iran has been upholding its side of the bargain, as reported by Defense News.

The intelligence agencies said Iran continues to work with other parties to the nuclear deal it reached with the U.S. and other Western nations. In doing so, they said, it has at least temporarily lessened the nuclear threat. In May 2018, Trump withdrew the U.S. from that accord, which he called a terrible deal that would not stop Iran from going nuclear. . .
the Iran nuclear deal is working.

In their presentation, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats contradicted Trump in almost every area of foreign policy, including that it is unlikely North Korea would ever give up its nuclear program, that ISIS continues to be a threat (despite Trump’s dismissal of them), with “thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.” They also noted that Russia and China are more closely aligned than they have been for 40 years

As for the Mexican border, the report said this:

The intelligence assessment, which is provided annually to Congress, made no mention of a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, which Trump has asserted as the basis for his demand that Congress finance a border wall. The report predicted additional U.S.-bound migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, with migrants preferring to travel in caravans in hopes of a safer journey.

The cooperation of other countries to overcome American sanctions against Iran is not the only way America is losing its leadership role. Other countries are working to save the Paris Climate Accord and may succeed, according to business channel CNBC.

The Paris accord can go on to succeed even without the U.S., experts told CNBC, because of the climate treaty’s differences with its predecessor and growing concerns about the threat of climate change.

Here’s another twist. Trump may be achieving the conservative goal of devolving power to local and state authorities. In this case, fighting climate change without the feds, according to Fast Company.

When Trump announced plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement in 2017, hundreds of businesses immediately responded that it was a mistake–and that they would redouble their own efforts to cut emissions. The newly formed We Are Still In coalition of businesses, cities, and states said that it would act “in the absence of leadership by Washington.”

It raised a question, especially for the rest of the world that stayed in the agreement: Can the U.S. meet its Paris goal despite the current administration? A detailed new analysis from America’s Pledge, an initiative led by Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown, finds that current commitments from “real economy actors” (the report’s name for everyone but the federal government) can drive emissions down roughly two-thirds of the way to the original goal. But a stronger focus on 10 key solutions, and deeper engagement, would make it possible to nearly hit the goal.

Yet another example of the world moving on without the United States is the recent move to form a European army that would bypass NATO, and exclude the USA.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday endorsed the creation of an EU army, siding with French President Emmanuel Macron whose similar call in recent days drew a fusillade of wrathful tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump.

Merkel threw her support behind the idea in an address to the European Parliament, part of a series of leaders’ speeches on the future of Europe. . . she said it is imperative that the EU pursue such integration, echoing Macron’s view that Europe could no longer count on the United States.

Meanwhile, Reuters says the Transpacific Partnership, from which Trump bailed, did not fold up. It’s going on without us.

Eleven countries including Japan and Canada signed a landmark Asia-Pacific trade agreement without the United States on Thursday in what one minister called a powerful signal against protectionism and trade wars. . .

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will reduce tariffs in countries that together amount to more than 13 percent of the global economy – a total of $10 trillion in gross domestic product. With the United States, it would have represented 40 percent.

Heraldo Munoz, Chile’s minister of foreign affairs, told a news conference the agreement was a strong signal “against protectionist pressures, in favor of a world open to trade, without unilateral sanctions and without the threat of trade wars.”

The last paragraph sounds like a direct slap at Trump. And it’s not just the TPP. Trade pacts on the Atlantic side are also springing up without the U.S.

Other nations have been driven to form their own trade pacts in part, analysts say, because of the Trump administration’s focus on slapping tariffs on imports and updating a 25-year-old agreement with Canada and Mexico instead of negotiating new deals that would expand markets for U.S. goods.

The European Union has been particularly aggressive – signing new deals with Mexico and Canada, finalizing another agreement with Japan and announcing plans to hold separate talks with Australia and China. But other countries also are pursuing deals of their own. . .

But many also “are trying to reduce their dependence on the United States now, viewing the U.S. as an unreliable trading partner,” she said.

The United States is the world’s largest economy, with a military that spends more than the following 20 countries combined. Yet, as we saw in Vietnam, and more recently, Afghanistan, dollars don’t necessarily translate into victory. And, increasingly, military power is not the only game. By constantly threatening to take our ball and go home, we may, before too long, end up in the stands, watching—and not cheering.