Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Obama (Non) Doctrine: Is It A Good or Bad Policy?

The radical upheaval in the Middle East is the greatest challenge the Obama administration has faced, both politically and from an international security standpoint. Their responses in each situation have been both criticized and supported in a bipartisan manner, with strange bedfellows on each side. Behind all of that noise, everyone is looking for a "doctrine" that underlies all of his actions. Some have said there is no doctrine, and I agree. This may be a good thing, or not, but here are the pro's and cons:


Pro: Let's face it, every president muddles through international crises blind, regarding long-term consequences. Following a doctrine that can be read in a sound bite is not responsible foreign policy. The O.A. is taking each situation individually, and not using any "doctrine" to determine our involvement. Libya is an example of the US "limiting" our responsibility in a UN/Nato action. Maybe the President is right to balance all the variables, and choose a course that is different than the historic "military intervention?" This way, we don't make an ongoing committment that we can't fulfill, and don't promise similar support for every "uprising" in the region.


Con: There has to be a coherent and principled doctrine that underlies a nation's foreign policy. The Obama administration's lack of any such overarching policy is distressing to say the least. SecDef Clinton dragged him into action in Libya, and he's been trying to pass it off ever since it started. There actually is a pattern, if not a "doctrine:" Spend as much time as you like analyzing a "crisis," from every angle (national security, economic, geopolitical, partisan political, etc...) before doing anything overt. This often ends up as "doing nothing" (see Syria, Iran). It's also a lame excuse to fall back on when dodging questions about "friendly" autocratic leaders (see Saudi Arabia, Bahrain).


What are your pro's and con's of this administration's ME policy? Is there an "Obama Doctrine," or not, and is it a good or bad thing, either way?

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