There is considerable buzz on the air waves and data world about Jeffrey Goldberg's overview article in The Atlantic concerning the Obama Doctrine (whose exact nature is proving as elusive as the Higgs-Boson particle once was to determine). Goldberg looks at the history of Obama's actions in office and outlines some key points that shed light on the POTUS' way of thinking. Here are a few:
1. Obama has a great affection for Brent Scowcroft - National Security Adviser under George HW Bush - he likes the concept of limit engagement ;
2.He has clashed with Hillary Clinton, Chuck Hagel and John Kerry repeatedly on the use of force in Syria - Kerry prefers a tougher approach;
3. Does not view the Middle East as a significant region in general;
4. Is obsessed with avoiding the same pitfalls that impacted the Presidency of George W. Bush;
5. Believes that any extended involvement in the Middle East by the US is likely to be problematic and cost lives with limited likelihood of success;
6.Sees the US as an internationalist force that should be more concerned with existentialist threats such as Climate Change;
7. Although he chose Samantha Power to be the American Ambassador to the UN he is not sold entirely on the 'Doctrine of Responsibility to Protect' that is the mainstay of her political ethos;
8. The pullback from the Red Line decision in Syria (2013) was largely motivated by a fear of pushing the US into a protracted war that would cost more lives.
9. He champions the idea of Drone Strikes (as do Republicans such as John Bolton) which in a way reflect the limited engagement philosophy;
Missing from the whole Goldberg analysis (perhaps conveniently) was the Libyan invasion affair that may have bearing on several of these points.
As someone who takes issue with Obama's position on Iran, his handling of Arab-Israeli issues and his relativistic posturing regarding the identification of the Islamist threat domestically, I find myself in unusual agreement with the President on Syria. I think he is correct to avoid a deeper involvement in this troubled country especially in a Civil War that has the potential to cost so many American lives. There is no positive force here and the optimum approach would be for the US to keep funding the Free Syrian Army as the lesser of the evils.On one level this seems harsh but in the context of the greater good of the US makes much complete sense.
However, what Obama needed to do (and may still have time) was communicate this resolve more efficiently. The populace need to be allayed of the fear that the US is in decline. The Pentagon has the ability to act with great efficacy and can as the Drone Strikes have shown eliminate its enemies with a fair degree of success. The electorate must be reminded of this.
The US must act with strategic intent that places the Nation's interest first, The Doctrine of the "Responsibility to Protect' makes sense in a Rwanda-like situation but cannot be applied universally. Neo-Conservative forays are fraught with a deadly blow back and although America has the military might to potentially serve as a Global Police Force it should avoid this responsibility unless driven to do so by calculated reason. This could be the legacy of the Obama Doctrine although I suspect that it may be lost to the great deal of jitter that has come along for the turbulent ride.