The basic foreign policy principles of various presidencies have been dubbed “doctrines.” In most cases such “doctrines” are gleaned from the practices of a given president’s foreign policy and pieced together from various official documents and even memos. One notable exception being the Monroe Doctrine which was put forward as a public doctrine and a warning to European countries.
Introduced on December 2, 1823, in President Monroe’s state of the union speech, it basically warned European nations to butt out of South America and the Americas generally. In return the US would butt out of European affairs. By contrast the Bush Doctrine was never put forward as a formal document but is a codification of Bush administration practices and the justification advanced defending those practices. Basically the Bush doctrine is that the US has the right to intervene in foreign countries and depose regimes that pose a threat to the US and to advance the cause of democracy in such areas of conflict.
Similarly, The Obama administration has never put forward a Monroe-like doctrine of its approach to foreign policy. Rather the public is treated to sonorous pieties about mutual respect and bringing old adversaries together in the spirit of mutual cooperation with benefit to all.
But now an Obama doctrine has emerged. And the irony is that the basics of the Obama doctrine have been revealed in a New York Times article designed to remove the Benghazi stain from Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. It is a revisionist piece claiming that Al Qaeda was not involved in the attack on the American consulate. Here is an account from The Weekly Standard:
In a December 30 editorial, published under the headline “The Facts About Benghazi,” the newspaper proclaims an end to the 15 months of debate about the fatal attacks on the U.S. consulate on September 11, 2012. Citing an “exhaustive investigation by The Times” that it says “goes a long way toward resolving any nagging doubts about what precipitated the attack” and “debunks Republican allegations,” America’s Newspaper of Record declares that “in a rational world” the investigation “would settle the dispute over Benghazi.”
In the process of exonerating Clinton, the 8,000-word account by David Kirkpatrick uncovers the two pivotal points of the Obama Doctrine:
(1) Radical Islam in general is not inherently hostile to the US and once they are shown due respect they can become US allies. This may mean weakening ties with our traditional allies.
(2) The only Islamic group that is a bona fide terrorist organization is the faction of al-Qaida directly subordinate to Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Only this group cannot be appeased and must be destroyed through force.
(1) the attempts to accommodate the Taliban in Afghanistan,
(2) the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,
(3) the initial backing of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian opposition,
(4) siding with the PLO against Israel,
(5) the kid glove treatment given Iran’s nuclear policy. In general, any group not in obeisance to Zawahiri is a potential US ally.
The beauty of this is that once revealed, the central tenets of the Obama Doctrine are so reality-challenged that the self-anointed “smart diplomacy” mantle becomes ludicrous. Moreover, they have led to one disaster after another to the extent that the US is not even considered the main player in the foreign policy arena. From Russia’s Putin to France’s François Hollande to China’s Xi Jinping, American counsel is met with polite distain. Here is a summation from V.D. Hanson:
Abroad, American policy in the Middle East is leaderless and in shambles after the Arab Spring — we’ve had the Syrian fiasco and bloodbath, leading from behind in Libya all the way to Benghazi, and the non-coup, non-junta in Egypt. This administration has managed to unite existential Shiite and Sunni enemies in a shared dislike of the United States. While Iran follows the Putin script from Syria, Israel seems ready to preempt its nuclear program, and Obama still mumbles empty “game changers” and “red line” threats of years past.
We have gone from reset with Russia to Putin as the playmaker of the Middle East. The Persian Gulf sheikhdoms are now mostly anti-American. The leaders of Germany and the people of France resent having their private communications tapped by Barack Obama — the constitutional lawyer and champion of universal human rights. Angela Merkel long ago grasped that President Obama would rather fly across the Atlantic to lobby for a Chicago Olympic Games — or tap her phone — than sit through a 20th-anniversary commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
But like his green-energy fixation, no matter how many Solyndras erupt, President Obama can be expected to cling to his foreign policy doctrine. Like the rest of his “avant guard” agenda – locked and loaded into his brain at Columbia and Harvard and at the feet of his mentors from Frank Marshall Davis to Jeremiah Wright – they are crucial to his own self-image of being a visionary, transformative world leader. The Grand Alliance with Islam? Damn the failures, blunders and self-stultifications, full speed ahead.