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Foreign Affairs

Discrediting the Obama Doctrine (in Britain)

I have always regarded as a rare pleasure the opportunity to digress from the views of respected fellows, and so I respond to Richard's post on Obama's potential diplomatic revolution with gracious objection. As amply displayed in my somewhat exhaustive (exhausting?) post on the subject, I am among those on the right who Richard observes complaining about Obama's slights toward brother Britain.

While I would love to concede Obama the credit of pursuing a shrewd, classical foreign policy (even one with which I disagree), I think this would be an unmerited assumption. Obama entered the White House with the unique dichotomy of having almost no foreign policy experience and a broad public expectation that his greatest acheivement would be a complete restoration of American foriegn policy. The President's sharply declining approval rating is a reflection not simply of his own missteps, but of the evaporation of such naive and unrealistic expectations (not being George W. Bush can only get you so far).

The Obama Doctrine, alternatively described as listening and wisely having no docrine at all, is a progressive-liberal's rhetoric-centric foray into a euphoria-induced delusion of we-are-one global diplomacy. That is, it is a great spring-board for riveting speeches, but a lousy arsenal with which to contend with the imperfect state of human nature. This inequality to the task has been painfully evident in objective and demonstrable failures in negotiations with Iran, China and Russia.

With regard to Britain, if Obama's slights were unintended, then he is a frightening amateur devoid of a diplomatic compass. However, If they were intended, as I believe, then the question is ... why Britain?

Richard's desire to link Obama with a Washingtonian statesmanship which prescribes a sort of foreign stoicism as a safeguard of national interest simply does not strike me as plausible. Save for his Nobel Prize speech, Obama has lacked any such desire to promote an arrogant, pro-America foreign posture. Also, the vagueries and niceties of the Obama Doctrine afford no indications of an objective to separate America from global partners - in fact, Obama's bed-side manners approach to global adversaries seems to lead in exactly the opposite direction.

The only exception to Obama's all-inclusive, let's-talk-about-it approach to foreign affairs has been the slighting of Britain, Israel, Tibet, Poland and the Czech Republic. That is to say, Obama seems to believe that the most effective route to proving our sincere desire to dialogue with America's adversaries is to allow them to see us cast aside any allies with whom they hold a grudge. The Obama Doctrine has thus sought to divest America of meaningful alliances with liberal Western democracies in the hope that such disavowals and enemy-of-my-enemy triangulation will win sympathy in oppressive autocracies.

The Obama Doctrine, and Obama's treatment of Britain, emerges from a misguided reflection on human nature and realpolitik, as well as, I suspect, a personal prejudice against the Anglo-American legacy in world history.

UPDATE: According to a poll released yesterday: "A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than it was two years ago.... [B]y a 10-point margin -- 51 percent to 41 percent -- Americans think the standing of the U.S. dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama's presidency."

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