The Obama Doctrine: Politics First & American Sin

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


51a68e9287ff0724250f6a7067004b22A segment on Fox News recently raised the question about what constitutes an “Obama Doctrine” on foreign policy, given how feckless and incompetent it has been. The obvious answer is the Obama Doctrine is founded on political expediency, and depends on ad hoc responses to crises based on a calculation of electoral advantage. But stale left-wing ideology also has a malign role to play.

The on-going scandal over the administration’s response to the murder of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, which took place six weeks before the presidential election, is exhibit number one. You don’t have to be Machiavelli to figure out that Obama and his advisors knew the Benghazi disaster falsified the triumphalist narrative that al Qaeda was “decimated” and that the “tide of war is receding,” and so it had to be spun into a spontaneous demonstration over an obscure Internet video. Throw in a cheerleading media studiously indifferent to “speaking truth to power,” and you have the shameful spectacle of four dead Americans in effect shrugged off by the administration for political advantage, and the current attempts to silence “whistle-blowers” who can shed light on what really happened.

But subordinating foreign policy to politics is typical behavior for Democrats. Most post-Vietnam Democrats are stealth pacifists, suspicious of American military power and committed to Kantian pipe dreams of internationalism and multilateralism, and American guilt and retreat. But they also know most voters expect the government to do something when America’s enemies commit acts of aggression against our interests. And they know military failure or casualties try the patience of voters and also exact a political price. Hence Democrats must calculate what minimum response they can afford at the least political cost.

The Democratic repertoire of responses relies first on diplomatic ritual––stern statements of “concern,” photogenic “conferences,” “summits,” and “commissions,” and carefully calibrated escalations of rhetoric the subtle purpose of which is to sneakily tighten the triggers of action so nothing will end up being done. Obama’s response to the Syria crisis illustrates this modus operandi in which verbal bluster is used to camouflage the unwillingness to act. Obama just compromised the approach when he strayed from his script and used explicit language like “red line” and “game-changer” that gave the whole game away.

If diplomatic bluster doesn’t work, then sanctions become the next option for doing nothing while pretending to do something. See North Korea and Iran for the futility of such evasions against a committed or lunatic foe. Next come cruise missiles, drones, and air attacks, which look good on television and have minimal chance of American casualties. Bill Clinton used air attacks in the Balkans in the ’90s when the horrific images of ethnic cleansing, massacres, and concentration camps, all redolent of World War II and hence politically toxic, compelled NATO––which means in effect the U.S.––to bomb the Serbs. Worse, Clinton’s response to the series of al Qaeda attacks on our military and embassies in that decade was to fire cruise missiles at sand and tents and a pharmaceutical company. In 1998, for example, 66 cruise missiles were fired at two al Qaeda camps near Khost in Afghanistan, missing bin Laden because he wasn’t there. As Michael Scheuer wrote later, 75 million dollars’ worth of cruise missiles had done “the work of day laborers armed with thirty-dollar sledgehammers.” All because Clinton feared the political costs and risks of sending in American forces to do the job right.

Obama has made an art of such showy camouflage. In Libya he “led from behind” with American air power, carrying water for the French and British, with seemingly no thought for what would be left after the creepy but defanged Gaddafi was eliminated. But Obama did something to gratify the “Arab Spring” delusions many Americans, including Republicans, were entertaining. And of course, his promiscuous use of drones to pick off al Qaeda “leaders” is another version of the same tactic. Obama looks willing to kill the stray terrorist lieutenant––who of course is immediately replaced by another––and any family members in the vicinity, while in effect doing nothing to stem the growing tide of al Qaeda’s global growth and aggression, most recently evident in Boston. And anyway, why try to capture these terrorists alive, when Obama has proscribed the effective interrogation techniques for gaining valuable intelligence? Yes, he killed bin Laden, but not even Jimmy Carter––who in 1980 ordered the disastrous operation Eagle Claw to rescue the Iranian hostages––would have passed up that opportunity for political gain.

But political expediency is just the most obvious dimension of the Obama Doctrine. The other is the musty leftist narrative of America’s neo-colonialist and neo-imperialist foreign policy crimes committed in service to the evil capitalist need for resources and markets. Whether it is the excesses of the Cold War, the support of autocrats and dictators, the unholy armaments industry, or the thirst for oil––the whole catalog of stale clichés and received wisdom typical of the badly educated, bourgeois fops and wastrels of the Occupy Wall Street movement––America is the global sinner, the font of all oppression and misery. In this narrative, as Obama said, there is no American exceptionalism––other than that of its crimes–– and so America cannot be trusted with its military power. It will be used only to gratify xenophobic nationalism, racism, and capitalist predation, and so we must apologize and retreat, as Obama famously did in his 2009 Cairo speech, when he decried the “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims,” and in his 2007 Foreign Affairs article, in which he wrote that America must be a global “partner mindful of our own imperfections.” Thus we must circumscribe our sovereignty and actions with international organizations, multilateralism, and disarmament. We must increase aid to those, like the Muslim Brothers, who want to destroy us, and distance ourselves from our staunch allies like Israel, the “little Satan” to America’s “great Satan.” Thus we can atone for our sins and be accepted by the “global community,” and we can pacify our enemies who, after all, attack us only because we have harmed them with our selfish aggression.

This part of the Obama Doctrine, of course, has been the gospel of the American left since Vietnam, when the anti-communist Democrats were politically marginalized and guilt-mongers like Jimmy Carter and John Kerry became the new face of Democratic foreign policy. It is the default foreign policy of the mainstream media, the universities, popular culture, and the think tanks and foundations that advise Democrats. That’s why the Dinesh D’Souza thesis–– that Obama’s rabid anti-colonialism inherited from his Kenyan father accounts for his foreign policy philosophy––is dubious psychology. You don’t need Kenya or anti-colonial animus to explain a set of attitudes as common as flies in American universities and colleges. Every two-bit teaching assistant, English graduate student, or junior faculty member reflexively chants this mantra of American crime and deserved playback. Our ideologically corrupted universities are the source of the Obama Doctrine, and his administration has graphically demonstrated the malign effects and dangers to our national security and interests that have resulted from joining power to bad ideas and political opportunism.

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  • Candid

    Very astute article.

    The obamoids are a cancer, chicago type, we need and Eliot Ness to root out this infections

    • miriam

      Yes, Hussein Obama´s rule a cancer. He didn´t kill Lbin Ladin ,it was thanks to Bush administration policy and thanks to the doctor who cooperated with the SEAL. The SEALS killed bin Ladin.
      Obama was against it into the last minute

      • You Know Who

        You have some proof to back that up claim?

        • Spider

          Yeah He knew BinLadens whereabouts for months while issuing stand down orders no less than three times. He only approved the assault when the political calculation was correct.

          • You Know Who

            Do you have some documents to back that up?

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

            Wee, do you ignore everything upsets your muslim loyal agenda?
            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1383010/O

            Of course that was after he kept wanting more proof, and you know what? That brave doctor is still in prison. And have we offered to give him assylum? Nope, thats' for the Chechen rebels that want to blow up Boston.

          • guest

            Unlike NYT, the favorite rug to you know who, we do not divulge classified information.

        • beez

          Obama (aka Valerie Jarrett) nixed the Osama kill-mission several times before CIA Director Leon Panetta and General Petraeus pulled off an end around play and got it done before Obama even knew that it had happened. If you'd read anything other than the state media, "MSM," you'd know that.

  • objectivefactsmatter

    “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims,”

    Jihad is a right according to 0'Bama.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      His foreign policy does seem to be 'muslim brotherhood' at every turn.

  • http://michellemalkin.com/ wolfeatworld

    Has anyone, other than myself, ever mentioned that the font and layout (GUI) of your website is somewhat difficult to read?

    Just curious; and perhaps it’s just me?

    • You Know Who

      It's nothing but spam

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

        It's great comments and deep thinking.
        You would hate it wee. If only you had a visible neck so you could turn your head back and forth as you read….

  • john

    I do not understand why the Obama communist party has diplomats in nations where there has been no diplomacy for decades or more.. Can you really negotiate with terrorists who hate you so much that they suicide bomb your facilities or attack it on a whim? Wow, our current government is as stupid as they come. Never thought I'd see a mental case elected for president.

    • jala

      Twice!

  • said

    I really respect that guy

    really really funny jokes

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      Was that for him, or her? Or for Reggie?

  • get it right

    The escort service ad from Elite in the middle of this article, reduces the subject of the report to tacky!

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      Some facts are less palatable than others.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    America's Bad Seed is a soul-less being.

    His ever-growing catalogue of prevarications — calculated to deceive and misdirect, seem to flow so effortlessly from his being that one wonders if Barack Obama knows the difference between truth and the craven falsehood: without which it could be said that he bore the marks of a marked personality disorder.

    Any parent who has ever raised a child with serious character and moral issues, perhaps as a consequence of what turns out to have been a persistent and reckless infusion of adulation and unconditional love, must soon come to the realization that as a by-product of their permissiveness, blindness, or fantastical "Hope for Change," something terribly wrong has grown up at their heels…"

    America's Bad Seed – A GREAT article from The American Thinker ……..
    Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/05/americas_b

  • AlgerHiss

    And by the way, this little idgit has never done a "guy" thing in his life. He is such a whimp, simp, sissy, coward, and classic douchebag. There is not a real male that would want to have a beer with this turd.

    • beez

      Well said!

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Obama will leave the most vile legacy of any man in politics and as and American President
    it will be a mark on our Nation of just how this great Nation has fallen into evil and sin and
    should his ilk continue in our politics the writing is on the burning door, The End………William

  • Ghostwriter

    Most of what those like Obama are driven by are what can be safely called the "Blame America First" doctrine. That goes that America is to blame for all the problems on earth. They see this country as a wild elephant rampaging everywhere and needs to be put under some type of international control before it causes more trouble. No matter what the real story is or the reality on the ground,America's the problem and that it must be controlled before things get worse. That seems to sum up the philosophy of those like President Obama.

    • beez

      Yes, but they know it more commonly by the name "neo-colonialism." That was the propaganda brainchild of the traitor American citizen Professor Edward Said, a professor of comparative literature at Columbia who was there when Obama is alleged to have attended that university. There is a photo of the two together, somewhere because I've seen it. Said wrote "histories" that blamed colonialism and Anglo Saxon empire making for all the evils since Eve enticed Adam to eat of the fruit from the Garden of Eden. Interesting that Said was never a historian or held to account for his fictional works he passed off as historical facts. That was also at a time when historians like Howard Zinn were openly saying that all history is just fictional literature, and there is no such thing as objective facts of history.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    .
    Throughout his life, Barack Obama has selected his mentors from the ranks of those who despise the United States. Including his religious pastor whom officiated his wedding.

    QUESTION: DID Obama's friends Bill Ayers, and Dohrn and their fellow domestic terr0rists ever give up their revolutionary goal of destroying the "imperialist" America they hate?
    (and events such as the Boston Marathon, the Pentagon, and various rhyming words)

    Or have they simply substituted new tools for the bombs and violence that were once the measure of their commitment? That they are now "clean and articulate" Obama friends.

  • beez

    Ayers and Dohrn murdered San Francisco police officer Brian V. McDonald in February, 1970. Dohrn is the one that placed the bomb. Ayers approved the bombing since he was then head of the WU. That is what the FBI concluded, though apparently they did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute them. Nevertheless, the FBI website says to this day that this murder and maiming of two other officers was done by the WU.