In a recent cover story for The Atlantic, President Obama sought to define and clarify the foreign policy of his two terms in office. ‘The Obama Doctrine,’ as the article referred to it, is, in Robert G. Kaufman’s opinion, has damaged the US’s reputation abroad by imprudently abandoning the muscular internationalism that has marked US foreign policy since the end of World War II. In a recent op-ed for The Daily Caller, Kaufman illuminates both the failings of the president’s “grand strategy,” and responds to the president’s own opinions in The Atlantic.
Judging from his recent lengthy interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, President Obama has learned nothing in the past seven years from the serious, serial failures of his foreign policy. Instead, Obama radiated a preternatural, delusional, and typical self-confidence expounding on the efficacy of his Obama Doctrine, which he has followed faithfully since 2009.
The Obama Doctrine combines the worst features of the morally obtuse anti-war left, unrealistic realism, and naïve multilateralism. The president views the so-called arrogance of American power as a greater danger than the threats emanating from devils and dictatorships abroad. Likewise, Obama rejects American exceptionalism while routinely apologizing for American sins abroad, which he has exaggerated and often imagined. Like unrealistic realists, Obama ignores the importance of ideology and regime type in identifying friends, foes, threats and opportunities. This fallacious premise explains why he eagerly engages virulently anti-American adversaries such as Putin in Russia, the militant mullahs of Tehran, the repressive, aggressive leadership in China bent on achieving hegemony rather than stability in the world’s most important geopolitical region, and Castro’s totalitarian tyranny in Cuba.
This accounts for the President’s unwillingness to admit that the danger of Islamism, choosing to conciliate rather than confront it. Obama’s persistent unwillingness to distinguish democratic friends from rogue regimes that are foes accounts for his default inclination initially to deem the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt a legitimate partner for peace rather than a mortal enemy of Israel implacably hostile to America’s legitimate interests.
The fallacy of moral equivalence between freedom and tyranny accounts for the president striving assiduously to put distance between the United States and decent democratic allies such as Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Also, his ill-advised decision to return the bust of Winston Churchill to Great Britain while denying the existence of an Anglo-American special relationship. Finally, Obama’s congenital obtuseness to democracy’s virtues and dictatorship’s vices accounts for his derelict disinterest in nurturing the strategic partnership that President George W. Bush initiated presciently with a decent, democratic India sharing U.S. interests in defeating radical Islam and ensuring China faces a robust deterrent to its imperial ambitions.
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About the Book:
“Robert Kaufman brilliantly establishes what a devastating failure his amateurish grab-bag of progressive policies have been in the three key regions of Russia-Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia.”—Daniel Pipes, President, Middle East Forum
Much like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, President Barack Obama came to office as a politician who emphasized conviction rather than consensus. During his 2008 presidential campaign, he pledged to transform the role of the United States abroad. His ambitious foreign policy goals included a global climate treaty, the peaceful withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a new relationship with Iran. Throughout Obama’s tenure, pundits and scholars have offered competing interpretations of his “grand strategy,” while others have maintained that his policies were incoherent or, at best, ad hoc.
In Dangerous Doctrine, political scientist Robert G. Kaufman argues that the forty-fourth president has indeed articulated a clear, consistent national security policy and has pursued it with remarkable fidelity. Yet Kaufman contends that President Obama has imprudently abandoned the muscular internationalism that has marked US foreign policy since the end of World War II. Drawing on international relations theory and American diplomatic history, Kaufman presents a robust critique of the Obama doctrine as he situates the president’s use of power within the traditions of American strategic practice.
Focusing on the pivotal regions of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, this provocative study demonstrates how current executive branch leadership threatens America’s role as a superpower, weakening its ability to spread democracy and counter threats to geopolitical order in increasingly unstable times. Kaufman proposes a return to the grand strategy of moral democratic realism, as practiced by presidents such as Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, with the hope of reestablishing the United States as the world’s dominant power.
Robert G. Kaufman is professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. He is the author of Henry M. Jackson: A Life in Politics and In Defense of the Bush Doctrine.