24 Mar '16    home | previous

The Obama Doctrine

The Obama Doctrine, so-called, regarding US foreign policy and the Middle East, has public attention that came with a recent interview in the Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg. And there is more criticism of Obama with the terrorist attack in Brussels two days ago that has killed at least 31 and wounded something like 250 people.

The Fox entertainer-journalist Bill O'Reilly complains that "America needs a strong leader who will sit down with the smartest military people and map out a clear fighting plan. Then NATO needs to declare war on the ISIS group... No more dithering." Presidential candidate Ted Cruz also claims that President Obama isn't doing enough, and he calls for carpet bombing.

After the attack in Brussels the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wondered aloud whether,

Obama hasn't gotten so obsessed with defending his hand's-off approach to Syria that he underestimates both the dangers of his passivity and the opportunity for U.S. power to tilt this region our way — without having to invade anywhere. Initially, I thought Obama made the right call on Syria. But today the millions of refugees driven out of Syria — plus the economic migrants now flooding out of Africa through Libya after the utterly botched Obama-NATO operation there — is destabilizing the European Union.

Washington Post columnist Davud Ignatius writes,

Obama reasoned that the Middle East "is no longer terribly important to American interests," that there's "little an American president can do to make it a better place" and that American meddling leads to the deaths of our soldiers and "the eventual hemorrhaging of U.S. credibility and power." Obama was wrong on all three, in my view... As the United States stepped back in the Middle East, others stepped forward. Russia has moved into the vacuum left by retreating American power; so has Iran; so has Saudi Arabia; so has the Islamic State.

A professor from India, Jai Sharma, comments:

What's viewed as a passivity of Obama about the Middle East is rather a well considered foreign policy strategy of Obama opted to spare the US of the burden of avoidable wars and resulting security threats. For, the turmoil the Middle East does find itself in today is neither the creation of Obama nor could it end with the proactive US military involvement in the region without, of course, exposing the US to more anti-US sentiment and Muslim wrath, that Obama would perhaps always avoid to add to his legacy baggage.

Someone named Cathy writes,

Frankly, the proxy wars and the distress and unrest have worked for the Saudis and for Iran. The President has worked to bring Iran back into the fold, not because we trust them, but because they need to begin to operate in daylight, just as the Saudis need to, to bring peace to the region. The west doesn't have the resources to occupy the region and bring peace. The Romans showed us how hard that is. So the current approach is passive, and probably just as effective as involvement.

Someone else,

The Middle East is a mess. Let the fires burn themselves out until they can figure out how to move beyond medieval tribalism and corruption.

Goldberg's article in the Atlantic describes foreign policy beyond the common simplicities. He writes,

Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush's national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft ("I love that guy," Obama once told me).

Goldberg adds,

But he also thinks rhetoric should be weaponized sparingly, if at all, in today's more ambiguous and complicated international arena. The president believes that Churchillian rhetoric and, more to the point, Churchillian habits of thought, helped bring his predecessor, George W. Bush, to ruinous war in Iraq.

Historian Max Boot tells us today that,

A reasonable goal for the United States would be neither to "degrade" ISIS (vague and insufficient) nor to "destroy" it (too ambitious for the present), but rather to "defeat" or "neutralize" it, ending its ability to control significant territory and reducing it to, at worst, a small terrorist group with limited reach. This is what happened with ISIS' predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, during 2007 and 2008, before its rebirth amid the chaos of the Syrian civil war.

He calls for "intensified air strikes" and lifting "the prohibition of US boots on the ground," drawing Turkey into the war and Impose a no-fly zone over part or all of Syria.

Today's news has President Obama defending his strategy.

What I have been clear about is when it comes to defending the United States or its allies and our core interests, I will not hesitate to use military force where necessary. But how we do that is important. We don't just go ahead and blow something up just so that we can go back home and say we blew something up.

It is the top priority of my national security team. It is the top priority of our military. It is the top priority of our intelligence officers. It is the top priority of our diplomats. But we are approaching this in a way that has a chance of working — and it will work.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.