The Obama Doctrine

The age of clandestine operations is almost over. The intrigue of the Cold War, and the coups that the United States bolstered in the 20th century are no longer feasible. Instead, foreign policy has become a battle of ideas, usually implemented by presidents, known as doctrines. Washington’s farewell address, which warned against “entangling alliances,” and the Monroe Doctrine, which asserted U.S influence in the Western hemisphere, set the tone for U.S. foreign policy in the 19th century. The Wilson Doctrine was concerned with “making the world safe for democracy,” while the Truman Doctrine aimed to “support free peoples who are resisting subjugation.” The Carter Doctrine declared that military force would be used to protect vital American interests in the Persian Gulf, and the Bush Doctrine established that the United States had the right to take action against countries that give aid or harbor terrorist groups, and was used to justify the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. In President Obama’s recent address on March 28th, he said that the United States “had a unique ability to stop that violence [in Libya]: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.” In short, the Obama doctrine was born. This piece of foreign policy from the Obama administration is one of the most nuanced with respect to diplomacy that has ever been put in place by a president. Prior to President Obama, a great deal of foreign policy fell into two camps: protecting American sovereignty and interests, and spreading democracy across the globe. The situation in Libya, which has grown and festered from a rebellion to a malignant civil war, has led to some of the most diplomatic international relations in recent history. A U.N resolution authorized the use of force on the part of Britain, France, and the U.S. NATO cooperation lead to an international team in the Mediterranean, with aircraft from the United States, France, and Qatar. Turkey, Kuwait, and Jordan are providing logistical support and flying above Libya, crippling Qaddafi. Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States and United Kingdom, fighter jets from France and Denmark, in addition to several other countries lending air and naval power to the no-fly zone. What makes the Libyan conflict unique and in some cases promising, is the different role the United States has played. Although a large number of U.S aircraft is involved, U.S military personnel have not directed the assault, but have followed NATO orders. Herein lies the beauty of the Obama Doctrine. Prior American foreign policy in the Middle East has consisted of the United States throwing its considerable weight around in order to depose a dictator, spread democracy, or maintain safe and affordable supply of fossil fuels. In Libya, however, the uniquely large and powerful U.S military arsenal was interwoven with that of other countries, and used not to achieve unilateral aims, but rather to help the Libyan people who are being attacked by their “leader.” Instead of the usual view of America as “international police,” which is often held in other parts of the world, under the Obama Doctrine, the United States is viewed instead, at least in Libya, as a part of an international team helping to serve the greater good of the Libyan people. In a world where globalization has been completed, the billions of interconnections between people, countries and economies call for a new style of American policy that is cooperative rather than invasive and individual. President Obama, it appears, is only too happy to oblige. Ben Krapels is a three-year Upper from Andover, MA and a columnist for The Phillipian.