Unveiling the Obama Doctrine
President Barack Obama did more than collect his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Besides the trumpet fanfare, the black-tie festivities, the pomp, the circumstance and of course the speech, he unveiled what Washington-watchers are calling the Obama doctrine. But what is it, exactly?
A quick online search shows an early mention of the Obama doctrine in March 2008, when Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton were still slugging it out for the Democratic presidential nomination. The American Prospect cited Obama speeches starting in January of that election year and talked to Obama’s foreign policy team to get an idea of what the future president’s world view might be. One key quote from the candidate on the Iraq war was seen as defining the doctrine: “I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place.”
“An inextricable part of that doctrine is a relentless and thorough destruction of al-Qaeda,” The American Prospect said. “Is this hawkish? Is this dovish? It’s both and neither — an overhaul not just of our foreign policy but of how we think about foreign policy. And it might just be the future of American global leadership.”
More of the doctrine emerged, according to a column in The Washington Post, after Obama’s handling of the rescue of a U.S. ship captain from Somali pirates in April 2009, in which Obama said little and relied on Navy SEALs to free the captive: “The Obama Doctrine seeks to regain the world’s sympathy by acknowledging that while the United States is a great nation built on worthy principles, it is not perfect.”
The Atlantic’s political blog called it “multilaterlism with teeth” and described it this way: “Obama sought to move past the liberal sentiment that Americans felt as a backlash to the Iraq War: the idea that America was engaged in an imperialist enterprise, militarily and culturally. His answer: we do not seek to impose our will, but we will stand for global security and rights.”
It’s not the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, but it’s not what some of Obama’s anti-war critics want either.
So is this a successful middle way, or a compromise that’s likely to draw fire from hawks and doves alike? Let us know what you think.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Chris Helgren (Greenpeace banner outside Oslo city hall where President Barack Obama accepted Nobel Peace Prize, December 10, 2009)