In this regard, the word “strength” is like the word “change.” Barack Obama inspired the masses with promises of change, without ever noting that change can be positive or disastrous. Likewise, the attribute of strength does not denote virtue or freedom. George Washington was strong — but so was Napoleon. Winston Churchill was strong — but so was Mussolini.
So how did we come to fetishize strength? In a world where politicians seem weak and effete and impotent, a sizable chunk of voters seem willing to toss the dice on a guy who makes things happen. (It hardly matters what things he makes happen.) An incompetent, corrupt, or anemic government sets the stage for public passions to be swept up by an inspiring figure who can restore a nation to its glory days. Thus, Mussolini can pretend he’s remaking the Roman Empire — just as Churchill can talk about defending Christendom and western civilization.
Don’t get me wrong, having seen Hillary Clinton dominate the debate stage and the Benghazi hearing, Republican voters would be wise to nominate someone who’s tough enough to go toe to toe with her. And having seen Barack Obama dither these last eight years, American needs a president who can project a strong image abroad. But while strength should certainly be one of the qualities we look for in a leader, it should, by no means, be the only — or even primary — attribute we look for.