Obama Doctrine

Clive Crook, Thomas Barnett, Dan Drezner and even Barack Obama give their thoughts on what an Obama Doctrine for American foreign policy might be.   Over at New Atlanticist, I argue in “Obama Doctrine: Style But No Substance?” that,

There’s good reason to be skeptical of the degree to which Obama’s foreign policy is actually new, much less a doctrine. Barnett and Drezner rightly note that changes in both tactics and optics are welcome given the point of departure.  At some point, however, the time for apologies and mea culpas and pushing reset buttons must come to an end and actual leadership must begin.  Given the magnitude of the challenges on the docket, it can’t come soon enough.

Obama has been in office only three months, so demanding a fully formed Doctrine worthy of the history books at this stage is asking too much.  But it’s reasonable to expect substance at this point.

More at the link.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I wish that President Obama’s doctrine included a recognition that other countries have interests, too, and sometimes they’re interests that have persisted over centuries.

    And, unfortunately, some countries have come to define their interests as opposition to us. The book that Hugo Chavez gave President Obama at the Summit, The Veins of Latin America, is Holy Writ for a lot of politicians in Latin America. Its central thesis is that all of Latin America’s problems are somebody else’s fault, mostly ours. Even its author thinks it’s simplistic and one-dimensional.

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Expecting substance from a President who was elected without ever having any? A campaign based upon hope and change but no mention of what would actually change would lead us to this point. I expect we will be wishing for substance a year from now.

  3. Steve… just because you never bothered to read any of the very detailed and interesting position papers the Obama campaign put out does not mean they didn’t exist. The claim that the Obama campaign was particularly substance-free is just another convenient lie spread by right-wing ideologues.

    All campaigns talk in short-hand. It is the nature of the beast. Obama’s was nothing unusual in that regard.

    But about the substance of this post… has ANY presidential “doctrine” ever been enunciated within 4 months of taking office?

    Truman Doctrine was enunciated in 1947 — 2 years into the Administration. Eisenhower in 1956 (I believe) 3 years in. Carter in 1979 — 2.5 years in. Reagan first labeled in 1985, but the policies envolved gradually from the beginning of this term. Bush Doctrine has 2-3 meanings and evolved, but is usually linked to 2002 NSS (Sept 2002)21 months into the admin. Only the Nixon Doctrine enunciated in July 1969 is close, but that was a special case dealing with a particular issue.

    There might be an interesting debate to have about the “Obama Doctrine” if there is one is 3-4 year, but right now this is just a silly discussion.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Bernard, if the silly topics were removed from blogging it would reduce the total output by, probably, 99%.

  5. Bystander says:

    Obama Doctrine: Rewind to 1976-80 and you will get a pretty good idea. Share your secrets, give away your assets, trust everyone and the world will be a better place to live in.

    We shouldn’t allow Miss America ideologies to marry our foreign policy.

  6. odograph says:

    I think people are trying to paint a picture from too few points. Sort of like that recent cartoon, an “economy” chart that looks like a smiley face: two points are the eyes, and the upward arc is the smile. The punch line is “of course, it’s only drawn from two data points.”

    This is sorta the opposite, a frown drawn from too little data.

  7. The only data point that matters to conservatives is that Obama won on election day. And the only data point they are looking to influence is election day 2012.

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I think it is easy to draw a conclusion, based upon the acts and facts of Obama’s recent travels his policy or doctrine is bow to kings, shake hands warmly with Americas enemies, give worthless gifts and apologize for the past but be sure to mention all the damage took place long before he was elected. What would you expect from a someone mentored by Frank Davis, Saul Alinsky, William Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright? His list of accomplishments, outside of getting elected consist of ?????

  9. Barry says:

    James: “At some point, however, the time for apologies and mea culpas and pushing reset buttons must come to an end and actual leadership must begin. Given the magnitude of the challenges on the docket, it can’t come soon enough.”

    Frankly, James, this is, well, crap. If you were too take charge of an organization which seemed to have been run by a combination of ‘f*ck the world’, ‘what me worry?’ and ‘loot, loot, loot!’ for 8 years, you’d probably find that mending fences and bridges would be a very important first step.

    And given that Obama is dealing with 8 years of GOP f*ck-ups, he’s got a lot on his plate.

  10. Steve Plunk says:

    Bernard, I would consider actual accomplishments substance. Position papers written by staffers are not substance. I also think his “doctrine” is being defined by world leaders as we speak. Sarkozy, Chavez, Brown, Ahmadinejad, and others are far from impressed.

    Barry, Some see leadership as “f*ck the world” while others see it as having the fortitude to step up and do what needs to be done. I believe Bush stepped up while I doubt Obama will.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Sarkozy, Chavez, Brown, Ahmadinejad, and others are far from impressed.

    And you know this how?

  12. bow to kings, shake hands warmly with Americas enemies,

    He even bowed and shook hands with a dog! A Mexican dog no less! He’s probably already signed away our sovereignty to this Latin Canine league.

    Watch out Zelsdorf! The black helicopters are on the way. You’ll need to put on your tinfoil hat to keep them from reading your thoughts.

  13. sam says:

    @Plunk

    I believe Bush stepped up in it while I doubt Obama will.

    Fixed that for you.

  14. Bystander says:

    Barry,

    Why is it when you feel cornered you resort to profanity? Does that make you feel more ‘right’? Or did you take a page from John Stewart?

    Just wondering …

  15. Steve Plunk says:

    Anjin, I guess no one knows for sure how they feel. Not being a mind reader I have only made reasonable assumptions. How would you know I’m mistaken.

    Sam, come on, you can do better than that. Post something with “substance”.

    Bernard, Your rhetorical tricks directed at ZR expose some weakness in your argument. Why not argue with facts and logic instead. He did bow to the king of Saudi Arabia and shook hands with Chavez. If you can defend those actions I’d like to hear it.

  16. sam says:

    @Plunk

    I believe Bush stepped up while I doubt Obama will.

    This is your idea of substance? Delusion followed by baseless conjecture?

    Oh, and as far as this goes:

    He did bow to the king of Saudi Arabia

    As has been pointed out before, at least he didn’t kiss the dude and hold hands with him like the Bismarck of Crawford did. As for shaking hands with Chavez, I suppose your idea of appropriate foreign policy would have Obama flipping Hugo the bone instead, right? Look, you guys had eight years, and the electorate said enough. I know it’s never too soon for you folks to start flying the flag upside down, but really, after only four months in office. C’mon. Seriously.

  17. Steve Plunk says:

    Sam, hyperbole doesn’t become you. Stepping up was a reference to leadership as opposed to Barry’s characterization of Bush as saying “f*ck the world”. Context is important.

    The mention of bowing to the king should also be taken in context. Bernard challenged Zelsdorf on this and I was pointing out it was true. Is it not?

    My appropriate response to Chavez would have been a nod and invitation to have diplomats meet. No handshake and no “flipping the bone”.

    Speaking of “seriously”, no one is flying the flag upside down we are merely pointing out that inexperience has consequences. Public discussion of such things is still allowed. Pointing out the electorate was duped is fair.

    So let’s not put words into each others mouths and discuss things on a higher level.

  18. sam says:

    Oh, please, Steve, you’re being disingenious with this:

    The mention of bowing to the king should also be taken in context. Bernard challenged Zelsdorf on this and I was pointing out it was true. Is it not?

    You certainly did more than merely point out the truth–you intimated that the acts were indefensible:

    He did bow to the king of Saudi Arabia and shook hands with Chavez. If you can defend those actions I’d like to hear it.

    What does that last mean if not that you think the acts can’t be defended? I still maintain that, Obama’s having been in office for only four months, it’s a little too soon to be asserting his failures.

  19. He did bow to the king of Saudi Arabia and shook hands with Chavez.

    Look, he nodded to the king of SA. Big deal. As others have pointed out, I prefer that to all the Bush hand holding of the guy. This isn’t the middle ages — there are no legal consequences to such an act. Maybe it was an inappropriate gesture, but no more so than puking in front of a Japanese PM or winking at the Queen of England. Good grief.

    Now about Chavez. Again, big deal. Chavez is a third-rate thug. He poses zero strategic threat to the United States. The only people he really threatens is his own with the risk of poverty due to his insane economic policies. If he wants to pretend he is back in the 1960s and act like Che was a bankbook, let him. The world has passed his kind by, and we only elevate his stature by making him seem like a threat. So you shake his hand, make a joke about the book he gives you, and moves on.

    You can’t control everything. And you can’t fight battles on every front. There is literally no upside strategically in getting into a pissing match with Chavez.

    We have two wars going on. AQ leaders still at large. North Korea is testing missiles. Iran pursuing nukes. Pakistan just turned over effective sovereignty of another 1.5 million people to radical extremists. Oh, and we have a little ongoing problem with our financial system. I think, given all of that, Chavez is pretty small potatoes.

    How is that for a justification?

  20. G.A.Phillips says:

    The Obama doctrine:

    Tax every one into the poor house.

    Slay as many unborn babies as possible.

    Regulate the second law of thermal dynamics.

    Cement the rights of perverts,illegal aliens, and criminals.

    Maintain power at all cost no matter the costs.

    Crap I could have wrote it for him and saved us billions of dollars.

  21. anjin-san says:

    I have only made reasonable assumptions.

    Why are they reasonable beyond that they support your previously held view of Obama? Do you have any facts to support the contention that they are “reasonable”?

  22. anjin-san says:

    Iran Officially Welcomes Nuclear Talks

    By NAZILA FATHI
    Published: April 22, 2009

    TEHRAN —Iran announced officially on Wednesday that it welcomed talks over its nuclear program, and said that it was ready to offer a proposal to resolve the dispute over its uranium enrichment activities, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced last week in a speech that Iran would take part in the talks. Wednesday’s statement appeared to be an official response to an April 8 invitation by six major powers, including the United States, for a meeting to find a diplomatic solution.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    re: G.A.Phillips April 22, 2009 08:26

    Just say the words…”President Barack Hussein Obama”…just drives ya nuts, doesn’t it (obviously)…

  24. G.A.Phillips says:

    No I was nuts long before this loser showed up, I was raised as a liberal….