LIVE STREAM: The Obama Doctrine


Is it too early in the Obama Administration to start using the phrase “Obama Doctrine” or is a clear vision and accompanying strategy emerging?
Between laying out his strategy for the war in Afghanistan last week and delivering a surprising oration on the Just War tradition upon receiving his Nobel Peace Prize this week, a doctrine is taking shape.
Peter Beinart, Senior Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation, has written an excellent piece in Time Magazine on Obama’s Afghanistan policy and what it says about his foreign policy vision. Beinart claims that Obama’s strategy of refocusing or downsizing the war on terror is “partly a function of personality and mostly a function of circumstance.”
President George W. Bush’s overconfidence in the United States’ ability to tackle “all terrorism-supporting movements and regimes” was based on an outmoded conception of U.S. military supremacy from the 1990s. But due to an overcommitted military and a poor domestic economy, the Obama Administration has been forced to reassess America’s power and role in the world.
In stark contrast to what Beinart calls President Bush’s “epic faith in the United States’ military, economic and ideological power,” the Obama administration realizes that it must make decisions based on America’s current economic and military limitations, as well as on an understanding of the diversity of ideologically driven groups facing the United States today.
TODAY at 3:30 pm EST, the New America Foundation will host a panel discussion on how the Obama Doctrine is taking shape.
The event will feature Peter Beinart; Glenn Kessler, Diplomatic Correspondent for the Washington Post; and David A. Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times. Andres Martinez, director of the Bernard L. Schwartz fellows program at the New America Foundation will moderate.
This event will stream live here at The Washington Note.
— Faith Smith


21 comments on “LIVE STREAM: The Obama Doctrine

  1. John Waring says:

    Speaking of Afghanistan as the last straw, and from a professional who really knows his stuff, go to:
    The final denouement of this egregious policy will not be pretty.


  2. John Waring says:

    I had naively thought that a president who once taught constitutional law would end the depredations of the Bush era, but I did not have dyspeptic clairvoyance of POA.
    Here’s another reason my initial enthusiasm has turned into contempt.
    “The State Secrets Charade Enters a New Round” can be read at Scott Horton’s blog:


  3. JohnH says:

    Well, folks, we’re in big, BIG trouble. We have a President whose poll numbers are tanking, whose opposition is motivated, and whose former supporters are seething with the white rage of betrayal. Though people hated Bush, hatred of BO will be much more intense because of that sense of betrayal. BO has driven himself off the cliff. Afghanistan was the last straw.
    When the next Black Swan strikes financial markets and the economy, the federal government will be paralyzed. BO’s credibility is shot. He already gave away the store to Wall Street. Progressives who held their noses and supported the last bail-out and stimulus package won’t do it again. There will simply be no significant federal response to the next economic crisis. An economic Katrina is looming.
    It’s hard to know when it will happen, but the “recovery” won’t last 8 years like the last one. The stimulus package is running on empty, and growth is already problematic. An attack on Iran could precipitate the black swan. Or a bursting of the mini-bubble in equities and commodity markets. A crisis of confidence in the President will certainly exacerbate what might have been a minor dip or stagnation.
    I’m looking for all the hatches and making sure I know how to batten them down quickly.


  4. Carroll says:

    My comment same as always…
    Burn Congress to the Ground and Start Over.


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, it is with no small amount of sacrcasm and irony that I say…..
    Told ya so.
    A long time ago.
    Way before the posturing sack of shit hoodwinked his way into the Oval Office on the merit of a mass marketing blitz.


  6. DonS says:

    I’m totally with you. The incrementalists who think that this is politics as usual, and that a major shakeup isn’t required, miss the point. While they’re at it, the fiscal team needs to be booted as well.


  7. Dan Kervick says:

    I am actively hoping health reform fails now. That is the only thing that will finally wake the White House up to the new world they live in, and set som some heads a-rolling. In particular, Rahm Emanuel needs to be shown the door, along with several other dead-ender members of the Party of Podesta. Obama needs to stop trying to govern a 2010 world with a 1996 administration.


  8. DonS says:

    The gloves do indeed need to come off, eh Dan.


  9. Dan Kervick says:

    Thank you Dots, JohnH and John Waring.
    And DonS, just speaking personally, I’m not mourning. I’m in a fighting mood.


  10. DonS says:

    Well, it looks like this is becoming a gathering of the clan to mourn over the death of, what, a misplaced idea that maybe the headlong stampede of the US over the precipice could be avoided.
    Perhaps we are all gray heads — not that you have to be to get a sense of the momentous and seemingly irretrievable trajectory of the country. But, as I have written before, an element in the missed opportunity that could have been Barack Obama in an alternative universe, is a youthful immaturity. Maybe it’s just my own way of trying to understand how such a huge opportunity could go so wrong.
    Perhaps, more realistically, my ongoing fear and assessment of the once and future president was that he would be guided by the need to find acceptance in the power circles he was de facto crashing. Now, simplistically, that may be applying notions of psychological functioning that I often find myself applying to public figures and systems.
    But, guess what? We outsiders may see more clearly what motivates these denizens of the higher realms as or more clearly than the inhabitants themselves — probably without question.
    As to the emerging “Obama doctrine”, his totally crass and in your face Nobel speech, said all that needed saying. We need not look to Mr. Obama to fulfill the hope of so many for a kinder, gentler US — certainly not one that matches the needs that beckon.
    Thanks again to Clemons for giving us this space to convene, for however long any of us is here. Let’s hope our sincerity is real enough to provide positive influence on him to push and pull whatever levers he encounters in a more real — in an honestly human way — direction.


  11. JohnH says:

    Barack Obama’s first job upon graduating from Columbia University was for Business International Corporation (BI), a company known to be used as a CIA front company. Could this explain BO’s politics?


  12. JohnH says:

    David, you have it wrong. The Republican base are the dumb ones. They continue to vote for people who talk the conservative talk and then turn around and screw them. Yet their sense of loyalty is so deeply embedded that it would never occur to them to stop voting for those who screw them.
    Or maybe a picture of Republican voters should be put into the dictionary next to the word “insane: continuing to do the same thing over and over with the expectation that the outcome will be different this time.”
    Republican voters have as much reason to vote “anything but” as Democratic voters.


  13. John Waring says:

    You are not alone. Please read the following searing indictment: “President Obama Has Failed his Mandate”.


  14. David says:

    “the choice between the two evils will boil down to not voting at all, or voting for anyone but”
    This has to have the Republican national machine smiling like a Chesire cat. Palin’s job is to get out the looney vote while the liberals sit home or cast some kind of protest vote. They are electorally smart, we are electorally dumb.


  15. JohnH says:

    Dan, you rock! Indeed, Obama “has set in motion catalytic forces that are going to break down the Democratic coalition.” Truly amazing. In their moment of triumph, Democrats could not muster the political acumen to throw a bone or two to their base to give them some excuse, any excuse to vote for them. Instead, Democrats have raised the art of stiffing the base to a new level. Instead of simply daring their base to vote for the lesser of two evils, they are now taunting them. But, guess what? When it comes to parsing the fine distinctions between the two evils, Obama may have finally convinced the base that evil is evil. Distinctions between the two evils don’t make a difference.
    Obama ran a slick, cynical, and mendacious campaign which will discredit Democrats who use the same rhetoric for a generation.
    For many Democrats, the choice between the two evils will boil down to not voting at all, or voting for anyone but a Democrap or Republiscum. Democracy needs their votes.


  16. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    Some experts/Strategists are of the view that the Obama Nobel peace prize nomination was pragmatically based on the notions of characterizing the US foreign policy in terms of establishing peace by denouncing the Bush administration’s war- strategies; yet his speech_ that he delivered in Oslo- does has an open reflection of his mind protecting his future war designs-sufficiently indicates that “the Obama-peace doctrine” seems to have been dwindling into the old riddles of “strategic realism”(the cornerstone of the US foreign policy).


  17. ... says:

    btw dan.. i enjoyed reading your article at tpm and thought it is an accurate viewpoint however disturbing to consider…


  18. ... says:

    dans speech in 4 words -usa is a plutocracy…


  19. Dan Kervick says:

    I wrote about Obama’s speech elsewhere:
    .. but I will make a few additional points here.
    First, since he was elected, Obama has been working very hard to convince Republican opinion leaders that he is a trustworthy centrist, pro-business neoliberal practitioner, devoted scion of an establishment educational formation, and able defender of the venerable 20th century global American empire. But despite his best efforts, and his desperate need to earn the paternal respect of GOP poobahs, the Republicans have persisted perversely in seeing Obama as a clandestine leftist, covering himself in phony-baloney, pseudo-establishment rags.
    But it appears that Obama has finally broken through, thanks to his F.U. to the Euro-peaceniks Nobel speech. The breakout of bemused joy and surprised gratitude among neoconservative Republicans since the speech indicates that Obama has finally persuaded them that he is one of them, and that he has sustained and rebuilt the neoconservative-Truman Democrat interventionist alliance that ruled Washington during the Bush years.
    Obama has also succeeded in accomplishing what appears to have been his fondest political dream: drawing a decisive curtain down between himself and the mangy political left he has repudiated and left behind. He has now isolated and humiliated the left so thoroughly and sadistically that nobody can any longer believe that the distancing is some kind of act. He has successfully convinced the Washington and Wall Street court establishment that he sincerely detests left-wingers every bit as much as they do.
    And as if to leave no doubt, as if to back the bus wheels up over the icky and wriggling left-wing road kill he has thrown under them, he has apparently ordered Rahm Emmanuel to put a quick end to the health care debate, and command Senate Democrats to cave on the last few unconvincing shreds of a vigorously progressive and egalitarian health care bill so as to just pass something, anything. Now that Obama has achieved his center-left/center-right coalition, there is no longer any reason for pretenses and security lines, and the purge and abasement of the left can be carried out in full daylight.
    Obama’s speech contains no mysterious and delphic new Obama Doctrine. No interpretive panel is necessary. It is just the zealously expansive interventionist doctrine of the Truman Democrats that we grew accustomed to during the days of 2002, 2003 and 2004. With only a little bit of tactful softening, he hit all the main nationalist themes beloved by “muscular” liberal interventionists:
    1. Current conceptions of international order and institutions are ratty and inadequate, because they don’t adequately allow for interventions (especially by Americans) to rectify defective, illiberal governments;
    2. Illiberal governments are inherently unstable and a threat to peace, because of their very un-American illiberality. Thus, we can be justified in overturning them for the sake of stability, and under the rubric of “defending the peace”;
    3. The United States is the indispensable defender of the global Pax. We are proud; and we’re pissed that people don’t respect us more, thank us more, honor us with more tribute and genuflect more submissively.
    4. Europeans have grown soft, and their degenerate societies exhibit an unhealthy separation between their womanly, peace-idolizing people and their ignored military forces. There is a notable and embarrassing shortage of manly Euro-woodies standing at attention over the thrilling virtues of righteous force.
    It looks like the only thing holding Obama back right now from vigorous adventures in force to fix the world’s many broken and hideous societies, are the recessionary economic chains holding us down. But note to the world, including you Euro-weenies: once the economy begins to grow, and revenues increase, you can all expect a fresh new round of American interventions abroad.
    Obama possibly does not realize that he has crossed the Rubicon. He has set in motion catalytic forces that are going to break down the Democratic coalition in the same way that the Republican coalition is similarly coming undone. That the American ruling class has successfully reaffirmed their interventionist creed with such unapologetic haughtiness, so soon after the murderous excesses of Iraq, without even a decent pause this time for an “Iraq syndrome”, proves that they are simply incorrigible, and that it is utterly impossible to reconcile their ideological megalomania, their jealous guardianship of wealth and governing privilege, their casual and careless affection for violence, and their zeal to dominate with the more modest, egalitarian and domestically-focused traditions of the authentically democratic part of Democratic Party.


  20. Outraged American says:

    Obama/ Cheney 3 Doctrine “Kill them all and let Israel sort them


  21. JohnH says:

    Nice piece of creative fiction by Peter Beinart. If only Obama would actually articulate what Beinart has written. But he won’t, because Beinart’s piece is wishful thinking.
    So far, all Obama has promised that we will BEGIN to withraw in 2011. A mañana withdrawal, just like Iraq. “Mañana, we’ll withdraw tomorrow, I promise.” Yeah, right! And you want to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge, too?
    In any case, US’ warmongering ways will have to be tempered soon. At the current rate, the US will have borrowed 100% of its GDP next year, and 150% a few years hence. Debt capacity will be exhausted.
    Then the US will have to fund its wars by doing something really unpopular–raising taxes, cutting popular programs (Social Security), or printing money.
    And besides, the military is out of spare troops. Instituting a draft, the most likely solution, will generate the ire of the middle classes, or at least what’s left of them.
    The days of “cost free” wars are almost over. But Obama continues to increase “defense” budgets and send troops abroad, as if financial or manpower constraints did not exist.
    The militarists will soon be face to face with the problems that out-of-control “defense” spending has created. And I serioulsy doubt that Obama can delay his day of reckoning until 2016…


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