Obama Doctrine Analysis
When journalists start using terms like “Obama doctrine,” they are institutionalizing the president. They are casting him in stone. Let’s see what Washington Post’s Blake and Cillizza have done with President Obama.
Critic-driven Doctrine: Middling in the Middle East
· Philosophy of war in the Middle East – fight when we feel like it; quit when we want to
· Threshold of American Interest – Can’t police the world and must be choosy, and moody too
· Clinush (Clinton-Bush) – Can’t act too slowly and can’t for too long
· Conflict on a sliding scale – War, No-war, and something in between; prefer the latter
· Cooperate and collaborate – leave holes in leadership for allies to fill, and for Senator McCain to complain about
“The Obama doctrine
By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza
A firm President Obama gave one of the most detailed foreign policy speeches of his presidency on Monday, laying out a broad philosophy for the looming conflicts in the Middle East while responding directly to his critics on Libya.
Much of the coverage of the speech will be devoted to what Obama said in response to those critics, and it was noteworthy, to be sure.
But perhaps more long-lasting and significant were his more general remarks about foreign policy. As America deals with increasing uncertainty in many places overseas, Obama took the opportunity to set forth his agenda going forward and tried to clarify why some nations rise to the level of U.S. involvement, while others do not.
Obama irritated both extremes by going into Libya (liberals disapproved) but not aiming for Moammar Gaddafi’s ouster (conservatives disapproved).
But in his speech Monday, the president remained content to press forward with very much a middle-ground approach, positioning himself as more of a hawk than Bill Clinton and more of a dove than President Bush. In fact, Obama alluded directly to the conflict in Bosnia (Clinton) and the war in Iraq (Bush), arguing that the response in Bosnia took far too long, while pushing for regime change in Iraq was foolhardy.
Obama pushed back on the notion that the United States should police the world, but also left the door open to getting involved when American interests — or even values (a much lower standard) — are at stake.
The key to Obama’s remarks, though, was the idea that the United States should act in concert with allies.
“In such cases, we should not be afraid to act,” he said. “But the burden of action should not be America’s alone.”
“Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well,” Obama said. “That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in Libya.”
Obama’s remarks about working with other nations are unlikely to sooth conservatives who have criticized the president for “apologizing” for America — a key theme of the nascent GOP presidential race.
Nor are they likely to alleviate criticism on the left, which might bristle at the idea of that the costs of conflict “cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right.”
Obama is staking out very much a middle ground on foreign policy. And the increasing uncertainty oceans away will continue to test the doctrine — call it “the Obama Doctrine” — that he set forth Monday.
The middle ground is generally some of the easiest political territory to inhabit. But as we’ve seen in recent weeks, it’s not always so easy to be stuck in the middle when it comes to foreign policy.
Americans divided on Libya: Fifty percent of Americans in a new Pew poll said the mission in Libya is not defined, while 39 percent say it is.
Less than a majority of people — 47 percent — approve of the decision to launch air strikes in Libya. But just 36 percent oppose taking action and 17 percent had no opinion. People are similarly divided about trying to remove Gaddafi from power, with 46 percent supporting and 43 percent opposed.
But there’s plenty of room for opinions to move. Just 15 percent of people say they are watching the situation in Libya closely, which is far less than say that about the earthquake in Japan.