Obama's National Security Doctrine: Naive — Frighteningly So

Yes, children, there is an Obama Doctrine. The administration has now produced a national security strategy. Be afraid, be very afraid. And those who should be afraid are Americans and their friends, not their enemies.

The administration wants to prove, most of all, that it isn’t George W. Bush. But in doing so, it also proves it isn’t the Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Bush I, or even the Clinton administration, either.

It all looks good on paper: America is not a superpower. It is limited, and this circumscribed power requires bringing in lots of partners. Obama writes in the introduction of the strategy released last Thursday:

The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone. ... Indeed, our adversaries would like to see America sap our strength by overextending our power.

Yet that point is missed. You don’t overextend precisely so you can concentrate on what’s important -- say, pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq to focus on containing Iran. You don’t reduce commitments in order to abandon the remaining ones.

Much of this worldview is intended to counter what the left hates about George W. Bush. Yet while one can certainly argue Bush did not wisely use the resources of American power, that doesn’t mean American power itself isn’t there. The remedy for excessive unilateralism isn’t excessive multilateralism. And while there might be times or situations where such a response did little harm, the present day -- with threats from revolutionary Islamism, an aggressive Iran-led alliance, anti-American leftists, and resurgent Russian and Chinese ambitious powers -- makes the Obama Doctrine a very dangerous course indeed. While Obama argues that America faces no real military competitor and global power is increasingly diffuse, these are likely to be temporary conditions. If there’s going to be a vacuum, there are a number of candidates eager to fill it.

Obama’s doctrine calls for bringing these candidates in as partners -- hiring the foxes to guard the chicken coop. China and Russia, Iran and Syria, Brazil and Turkey -- among others -- are naively seen as reliable buddies. Or, in the words of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes:

We are deeply committed to broadening the circle of responsible actors.

It's a dangerous idea -- the United States cannot make these countries, or any, “responsible actors.” There’s a reason why responsible actors include countries like Britain, France, and Germany. And the fruit of this mistaken policy is the kind of thing we just saw with the Brazilian-Turkish stab in the back over Iran.

We’re going to be seeing a lot more of this.

Why is the Obama administration so concerned with engaging enemies? Because it is precisely, according to the Obama worldview, the “bad boy” powers which must be appeased. If the United States is conceived as weak and overextended, the ones threatening to disrupt everything may be too strong to oppose, and so must be coopted.