Liberals made much hay about the Bush doctrine in the previous administration, but not much has been made of the Obama doctrines during the current one.
One reason is simple: Obama has no grand vision on foreign policy. He flies from one conflict to another, neither caring nor obsessing over whether his actions will have later consequences
But from his response from Syria, we can learn a couple valuable things about how Obama thinks, not to mention how the left in a larger perspective feels about foreign policy.
1. There is no national interest necessary.
Syria may be a central player in the Middle East, but this is an unlike foe for the United States. Three short years ago, the Obama Administration was openly looking a Bashar al Assad as an ally. Hillary Clinton famously referred to him as a ‘reformer’.
Now, they are a threat to the United States?
They may very well be a threat to Israel. Possibly to their other neighbors. But only in the most extreme stretch of the imagination are they a threat to the United States of America. In fact, they are likely a larger threat only if we attack.
Heck…they don’t even have a significant oil source.
2. We are now the world’s policeman.
The most common argument I have heard from progressive friends is that Assad violated international standards, and therefore, must be punished.
This is a fascinating argument from a political movement whose main cry for the last decade is that we specifically should not be the policeman for all the world’s problems. Today…they specifically want us to take on that role.
3. No allies necessary.
Obama has done one remarkable thing in his foreign policy: he has made Britain, a steadfast ally of ours, no longer….steadfast.
Yesterday the U.K. Parliament rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s request to have power to intervene in Syria.
How remarkable an event was this? The last time that Parliament rejected such military action was…1782.
In Afghanistan, George W. Bush was able to rally more than 40 countries and all of NATO. In Iraq, which was clearly a heated political discussion, Bush got the support of 30 other countries, including Britain and Spain, and came very close to getting the support of Turkey and India.
Barack Obama could not get the support of England.
Now, this is not so important, except for the simple fact that Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden, along with the likes of Chuck Hagel, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid scolded President Bush for his ‘limited’ allied force, and some even remarked that Bush’s claim was a ‘fantasy’.
I wonder what spin they will provide now?
4. UN? What’s the UN?
No United Nations Security Council resolution is coming. Not in the near term. Russia and China are adamant that more time is needed before they can decide on any action, and even then, they view this as an internal Syrian matter.
So Obama, because of this ‘roadblock’ (and where have we heard that before) will simply act…unilaterally.
The irony, of course, is that George W. Bush, who was labeled a ‘cowboy’ and a ‘unilateralist’ actually did go to the U.N. and, in fact, did obtain Security Council resolutions for his actions.
5. Constitution matters only for Republican Presidents
This is Senator Barack Obama in 2007:
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat,” Obama told the Boston Globe.
Today, President Obama and his staff are quite clear: no Congressional authority is necessary. And neither would this be unique; they took the same tactic with Libya.
Now, if they are going to make this argument, they should at least have the honesty to admit they were wrong in 2007, and the likes of Dick Cheney, John Yoo and others were right. Of course, that would make their liberal base go over the edge, but whose fault is that?
In conclusion, President Obama is rapidly expanding the powers of the Executive to go to war. These are expansions of those powers that Dick Cheney and other neocons in the prior administration urged President Bush to take, but he never did so. Bush, ironically, had more respect for the Constitution and international law than our current Oval Office occupant does.
Those that say that Assad and the Syrians who used chemical weapons against their own people are correct that those actions should not go unpunished. But following a course to war that has neither the support of the American people or the world, and cannot get approved by the Congress and the United Nations, is one of folly.
But that is the heart of the Obama doctrine on foreign intervention, as it stands today.