Victor Davis Hanson:
Does Barack Obama have a strategy? He is often criticized for being adrift.
Nonetheless, while Obama has never articulated strategic aims in the manner of Ronald Reagan or the two Bushes, it is not therefore true that there is no “Obama Doctrine.” Indeed, now that he has been in office five years, we can see an overarching common objective in otherwise baffling foreign-policy misadventures.
Collate the following: large defense cuts, the president’s suspicions that he is being gamed by the military, the pullout from the anti-missile defense pact in Eastern Europe, the pressure on Israel to give new concessions to its neighbors, the sudden warming up with an increasingly Islamist Turkey, the failed reset with Russia, radical nuclear-arms-reduction talks, the abject withdrawal of all U.S. peacekeeping forces in Iraq, the timetable withdrawals in Afghanistan, the new worries of our Asian and Middle Eastern allies, the constant euphemisms on the war on terror, the stepped-up drone attacks, the lead-from-behind removal of Moammar Qaddafi, the pullaway from Mubarak in Egypt, the support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the pink lines in Syria, the Iranian missile deal, the declaration that al-Qaeda was on the run and the war on terror essentially ending, the Benghazi coverup, and on and on.
Does such American behavior display any consistent strategic coherence?
I think it most certainly does.
The Obama administration believes that past administrations’ strategic objectives and the methods of achieving them not only were flawed, but led to the sort of world that is not in our interests as defined by the Obama team. The contemporary world landscape is an unfair place. “Have” nations exploit the “have-nots,” in large part because of the rigged postwar system of free-market commerce, alliances, and politics that the United States created. While it would be dangerous and indeed impossible to abruptly disown our responsibilities — we can still hunt down bin Laden, kill terrorists with drones, and jawbone rogue dictators — we can begin to withdraw our sponsorship from the mess that, in a variety of ways, we were responsible for.
Our past and most secure alliances — the special relationships with Britain and Israel especially — are now seen as having alienated more people than they encouraged. Islamist movements in Turkey and Egypt were either inevitable or justified, given historical grievances against the West and the fact that they reflect grass-roots indigenous support.
Summed up, the Obama Doctrine is a gradual retreat of the American presence worldwide — on the theory that our absence will lead to a vacuum better occupied by regional powers that know how to manage their neighborhood’s affairs and have greater legitimacy in their own spheres of influence. Any damage that might occur with the loss of the American omnipresence does not approximate the harm already done by American intrusiveness. The current global maladies — Islamist terrorism, Middle Eastern tensions, Chinese muscle-flexing, Russian obstructionism, resurgence of Communist autocracy in Latin America — will fade once the United States lowers its profile and keeps out of other nations’ business.
For Obama, America abroad is analogous to the 1 percent at home. We need not squabble over the reasons why the wealthiest Americans enjoy unequal access to the things money can buy, or why America, of all nations, finds itself with unmatched global clout and influence. The concern is only that such privilege exists; that it is unfair; that it has led to injustice for the majority; and that it must be changed.
Just as the United States would be a lot better place if a few million were not so rich, so too the world would be better off if the United States — and to a lesser extent Europe — were not so powerful and interventionist.
That is a scary thought. Were the foreign policy blunders of the past five years intentional? If so, it’s really just a return to the Carter Doctrine.
I don’t believe it.
Obama’s foreign policy has too much in common with his domestic policy – inept, amateurish, stumbling from one crisis to another, and all of it based on narcissistic hubris.
Obama’s two signature policy achievements are Obamacare and the so-called Arab Spring. Both have turned out to be disasters. The real problem for Obama has not been GOP obstructionism. He mostly got his way in his first term, the problem is that his way was the wrong way. During his first three years foreign policy seemed to be the one bright spot in his administration, but the past two years have seen that house of cards collapse.
Of course his foreign policy team deserves much of the blame as well, but the buck stops in the Oval Office.
Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. – Robert J. Hanlon.