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The Obama Doctrine is a term frequently used to describe one or several unifying principles of the foreign policy of Barack Obama. The Obama Doctrine has never been officially declared, and Obama himself has expressed a dislike for an excessively "doctrinaire" foreign policy.[1] This has left journalists and political commentators to speculate on what the exact tenets of the Obama Doctrine are. Generally speaking, it is accepted that a central part of the doctrine is negotiation and collaboration over confrontation and unilateralism in international affairs. The Obama Doctrine has been praised by some as a welcome change from the more interventionist Bush Doctrine.[2] Others, such as former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, have criticized it as overly idealistic and naïve, promoting appeasement with the country's enemies.[3]

Contents

Pre-presidency

Foreign policy was an important part of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, which included a major speech at the Victory Column in Berlin.

The term "Obama Doctrine" was used long before the start of Obama's presidency, while he was still only a candidate in the Democratic primaries. In an article in The Providence Journal from August 28, 2007, James Kirchick used the term in a derogatory sense, and argued that the Obama Doctrine could be summarised as: "The United States will remain impassive in the face of genocide." This critique was based on an interview Obama had given to the Associated Press on July 21, where he said that "the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there."[4] Hilary Bok, guest-blogging for Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic's The Daily Dish refuted Kirchick's representation of Obama's foreign policy views as a distortion. Bok pointed to Obama's use of anti-genocide activist Samantha Power as a political adviser, and to several interviews the candidate had given expressing concern for the situation in Darfur and elsewhere.[5] Later, in a presidential debate with John McCain, Obama stated that the U.S. occasionally would have to "consider it as part of our interests" to carry out humanitarian interventions.[6]

Later in the campaign, when asked about the question himself at one of the Democratic presidential debates in March, Obama answered that his doctrine was "not going to be as doctrinaire as the Bush doctrine, because the world is complicated." He added that the United States would have to "view our security in terms of a common security and a common prosperity with other peoples and other countries."[1] Later this doctrine was elaborated on as "a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering 'democracy promotion' agenda in favor of 'dignity promotion,'" that would target the conditions that promoted anti-Americanism and prevented democracy.[7] This policy was quickly criticized by Dean Barnett of The Weekly Standard as naïve. Barnett argued that it was not a "climate of fear" that lay behind Islamic extremism, but "something more malicious".[8] Then-President George W. Bush, in a speech at the Knesset, made comments in May that were taken as implicit criticism of Obama, invoking Neville Chamberlain's policy towards Nazi Germany.[9] Senator Joe Biden, Obama's running mate, said that Bush's act of attacking a U.S. senator from the parliament of another country was "demeaning to the presidency of the United States of America".[10]

In 2008, the term "Obama Doctrine" was used by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times in a comment on a speech given by then Senator Obama at the Woodrow Wilson Center on July 15. Here Obama listed the five pillars of his foreign policy, should he be elected:[11]

I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century,

Sweet pointed out that these ideas were a reiteration of the essay "Renewing American Leadership," that Obama had written for Foreign Affairs magazine in the summer of 2007.[12]

As president

As president, an important part of Barack Obama's foreign policy has been reaching out to Muslim countries. On June 4, 2009, the president delivered the speech "A New Beginning" at Cairo University.

Not long after Obama's inauguration on January 20, 2009, commentators began to speculate on the emergence of a distinct Obama Doctrine in action. The closure of the American detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, the rejection of the phrase "Global War on Terror", and the reconciliation with Russia through the abandonment of the anti-ballistic missile program in Poland and the Czech Republic, were taken as clear signs of a reversal of the principles of the Bush administration.[13] In early April, Marc Ambinder predicted that the president with time would have to take a more pragmatic stance on the legal status of detainees.[14] Meanwhile professor of international politics Daniel Drezner suggested the Obama Doctrine was influenced by French philosopher Montesquieu, whose thinking in Drezner's words could be crudely summarised "useless conflicts weaken necessary conflicts." The Obama Doctrine, in Drezner's interpretation, was to abandon foreign policies that had proven fruitless and unpopular, in order to focus on more important and pressing issues.[15]

On April 16, E.J. Dionne wrote a column for The Washington Post expressing a highly positive view of what he saw as the Obama Doctrine. The column came in the direct aftermath of the successful rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates. He defined the doctrine as "a form of realism unafraid to deploy American power but mindful that its use must be tempered by practical limits and a dose of self-awareness."[16] Dionne also pointed to the influence Reinhold Niebuhr has on Obama, and quoted Niebuhr's warning that some of "the greatest perils to democracy arise from the fanaticism of moral idealists who are not conscious of the corruption of self-interest" and that a "nation with an inordinate degree of political power is doubly tempted to exceed the bounds of historical possibilities."[16]

Later that month, at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, the President was again asked the question he was asked during the campaign, of defining the Obama Doctrine. The President replied that "the United States remains the most powerful, wealthiest nation on Earth, but we're only one nation, and that the problems that we confront, whether it's drug cartels, climate change, terrorism, you name it, can't be solved just by one country."[17] He later elaborated on his foreign policy views, particularly relating to Muslim countries, in a high-profile speech given at Cairo University in June, where he called for reform of undemocratic countries from within.[18] Obama's efforts to improve foreign relations received praise even from former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. Meanwhile, foreign policy analyst Reginald Dale, believed the President's policy of reconciliation had weakened the country in relation to other countries, such as Russia, China and North Korea.[19] Others criticized Obama for the lack of a well-defined doctrine. Charles Krauthammer said that "I would say his vision of the world appears to me to be so naïve that I am not even sure he's able to develop a doctrine."[20] Anders Stephanson, professor of history at Columbia University, coming from a different perspective, argued that an overly pragmatic foreign policy, and the absence of an over-arching ideology could facilitate the return of a simplified American exceptionalism policy at a later point.[21]

The question of the Obama Doctrine once more came to the fore in connection with his acceptance speech at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in December 2009. The awarding of the peace prize drew a mixture of praise and criticism from all sides of the political spectrum.[22] Obama took the opportunity of the speech to address some of this criticism, and argue for the occasional use of force in international relations. "To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason," he said.[23] According to John Dickerson of Slate, the President silenced his conservative critics who have labelled him as weak, while maintaining an insistence on diplomatic engagement.[24] The speech was generally well received, and was praised by conservative figures in American politics, including Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and John Boehner.[25]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "Democratic Presidential Debate on NPR". The New York Times: p. 7. 04 December 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/us/politics/04transcript-debate.html?pagewanted=7. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  2. ^ Chollet, Derek; James Goldgeier (13 July 2008). "Good Riddance to the Bush Doctrine". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/11/AR2008071102391.html?hpid=opinionsbox1. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  3. ^ "Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton on Obama and the Politics of 'Appeasement'". Fox News. 20 May 2008. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,356708,00.html. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  4. ^ Kirchick, James (28 August 2007). "James Kirchick: The Obama Doctrine". The Providence Journal. http://www.projo.com/opinion/contributors/content/CT_kirch26_08-26-07_2E6P8V3.10abcad.html. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  5. ^ Bok, Hilary (26 August 2007). "The Obama Doctrine, Take 2 [hilzoy]". The Atlantic. http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/08/the-obama-doc-1.html. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  6. ^ "Presidential debate transcript, Oct. 7, 2008". MSNBC. 07 October 2008. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27073997/page/11/. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  7. ^ Ackerman, Spencer (24 March 2008). "The Obama Doctrine". The American Prospect. http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_obama_doctrine. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  8. ^ Barnett, Dean (27 March 2008). "Meet the Obama Doctrine". The Weekly Standard. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/014/924vuste.asp. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  9. ^ Spetalnick, Matt (15 May 2008). "Bush sees calls for Iran talks as "appeasement"". Reuters. http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKN1524290920080515. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  10. ^ Bruce, Mary (18 May 2008). "Biden: Bush 'Appeasement' Quip Is 'Raw Politics'". ABC News. http://www.abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/story?id=4880811&page=1. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  11. ^ Sweet, Lynn (16 July 2008). "The war over the war". Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.suntimes.com/news/sweet/1058012,CST-NWS-sweet16.article. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  12. ^ Obama, Barack (July/August 2007). "Renewing American Leadership". Foreign Affairs 96 (4). http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:zC6FLMYNZBYJ:fernausbildung-4.hsu-hh.de/pub/nj_bscw.cgi/S49cb0a2a/d311171/Renewing%2520American%2520Leadership.pdf+obama+%22Renewing+American+Leadership%22+%22Foreign+Affairs%22&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  13. ^ Bondi, Matt (19 March 2009). "The Obama Doctrine starting to take shape". Guelph Mercury. http://news.guelphmercury.com/Opinions/article/454540. Retrieved 11 December 2009.  
  14. ^ Ambinder, Marc (03 April 2009). "Decoding The Obama Doctrine". CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/04/03/politics/onthemarc/main4915935.shtml. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  15. ^ Drezner, Daniel (20 March 2009). "Explaining the Obama doctrine". Foreign Policy. http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/04/20/explaining_the_obama_doctrine. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  16. ^ a b Dionne, E. J. (16 April 2009). "The Obama Doctrine". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/15/AR2009041502902.html. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  17. ^ Hayes, Stephen F. (10 December 2009). "Thoughts on an "Obama Doctrine"". The Weekly Standard. http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/12/thought_on_an_obama_doctrine.asp. Retrieved 16 December 2009.  
  18. ^ Corbin, Cristina (04 June 2009). "Cairo Speech May Signal New 'Obama Doctrine' in Foreign Policy". Fox News. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/06/04/cairo-speech-signal-new-obama-doctrine-foreign-policy/. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  19. ^ Syed, Wajid Ali (30 April 2009). "The Obama 100 day anniversary: Foreign Policy". Asian Tribune. http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/17171. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  20. ^ Brinkbäumer, Klaus; Gregor-Peter Schmitz (26 October 2009). "'Obama Is Average'". Der Spiegel. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,656501-2,00.html. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  21. ^ Stephanson, Anders. "The American exception". The National. http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091016/REVIEW/710159990/1194/FOREIGN. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  22. ^ "Obama's Nobel win draws mixed reaction". 09 October 2009. http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/10/09/nobel-peace-prize-reaction-obama389.html. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  23. ^ Deshayes, Pierre-Henry (11 December 2009). "Obama's 'war and peace' speech silences criticism". Agence France-Presse. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jj1XLAUPWhZi-QtsWVh8bZ5XI29A. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  24. ^ Dickerson, John (10 December 2009). "The Nobel War Prize". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2238091/. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  25. ^ Weiner, Rachel (11 December 2009). "'Obama Doctrine' Praised By Conservatives After Nobel Speech". The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/11/obama-doctrine-praised-by_n_388488.html. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
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