Obama's National Security Doctrine: Naive — Frighteningly So

Hillary Clinton said:

We are shifting from mostly direct application and exercise of American power to one of indirection, that requires patience and partners, and gets results more slowly. ... In a world like this, American leadership isn’t needed less, it is needed more. And the simple fact is that no global problem can be solved without us.

Clinton, judging from the opposition to Iran's nuclear weapon project, seems to be at best much too late. How much will you pay your enemies to pretend to be partners? Suppose certain countries don’t want to solve global problems, but merely to take advantage of them -- do they still need the United States?

Imagine a town full of outlaws, with a weak sheriff. The sheriff can deputize the criminals in the belief that this would make them “responsible actors.” Of course, as you probably guess, they would use their badges to rob, rape, and murder even more effectively.

If Obama and his colleagues feel the United States is overextended, it is partly because they misidentify the threats and reject the best ways of dealing with them. The doctrine says that nuclear weapons are the main threat to America, followed by climate change, dependence on fossil fuels, and cyber warfare.

This is dangerous claptrap. Without denying a threat posed by any of these, one could point out that there is no big threat from nuclear weapons (especially compared to the 1950-1990 period); that climate change as a threat is not proven nor is the ability of countries to do anything about it given the realistic options they have; that a combination of drilling and technology can deal with the energy problem; and that cyber warfare is still a very speculative threat. Compare that with Iran taking over much of the Middle East; Russia rebuilding its empire; terrorism spreading in scope and intensity; and China gaining hegemony over large parts of Asia. I’m not saying those things are going to happen, but they are much greater threats than Obama’s list.

In a move that qualifies him for a Nobel Prize in chutzpah, Obama warns that the high budget deficit is a major threat to U.S. strategic power. Since his policies have been responsible for creating this problem, and his administration shows no sign of changing them, one can only gasp at such audacity.

There’s a lot more of interest. The paper says:

While the use of force is sometimes necessary, we will exhaust other options before war whenever we can, and carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs and risks of inaction.

Sounds great. But how about the use of power politics, threats, leverage, sticks? Once you assert America is weak and overextended, how are you going to convince anyone that they better do what you want? Obama’s posture makes the idea of containing Iran, for example, unthinkable. Once you announce you have no teeth, your enemies will naturally conclude that your bark is worse than your bite:

Indeed, our adversaries would like to see America sap our strength by overextending our power.

Yes, but those adversaries are equally happy to see you voluntarily throw away America's strength by denying it and hiring them to run the nursing home for what you see as a pitiful, helpless giant. One day there might be another president, neither a Bush nor an Obama, who will stand up straight, get rid of the wheelchair and canes, and decide that reports of America's demise are greatly exaggerated.