The Obama Doctrine

Posted in GSU photo archive, History, Politics, War by chamblee54 on March 4, 2022








There is a novella in the current issue of The Atlantic, The Obama Doctrine. It is written by Jeffrey Goldberg. PG was mining TOD for big words, to use in a poem. While doing this, he copied a few quotes. These quotes, and the commentary they inspire, are a good excuse for a post. The pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.

“Obama would say privately that the first task of an American president in the post-Bush international arena was “Don’t do stupid shit.” Obama’s reticence frustrated Power and others on his national-security team who had a preference for action. Hillary Clinton, when she was Obama’s secretary of state, argued for an early and assertive response to Assad’s violence. In 2014, after she left office, Clinton told me that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadist have now filled.” When The Atlantic published this statement, and also published Clinton’s assessment that “great nations need organizing principles, and‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Obama became “rip-shit angry,” according to one of his senior advisers. The president did not understand how “Don’t do stupid shit” could be considered a controversial slogan. Ben Rhodes recalls that “the questions we were asking in the White House were ‘Who exactly is in the stupid-shit caucus? Who is pro–stupid shit?” The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit.”

TOD has two parts. The first section is devoted to a decision not to bomb Syria. The second part is the result of a series of interviews that Mr. Goldberg conducted with President Obama. Apparently, bombing Syria would have been stupid shit. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bowdlerized this mantra. Apparently this is the job of the Secretary of State… to turn shit into stuff.

“Obama was also unsettled by a surprise visit early in the week from James Clapper, his director of national intelligence, who interrupted the President’s Daily Brief, the threat report Obama receives each morning from Clapper’s analysts, to make clear that the intelligence on Syria’s use of sarin gas, while robust, was not a “slam dunk.” He chose the term carefully. Clapper, the chief of an intelligence community traumatized by its failures in the run-up to the Iraq War, was not going to overpromise, in the manner of the onetime CIA director George Tenet, who famously guaranteed George W. Bush a “slam dunk” in Iraq.”

Syria had long been ruled by the Assad family. They are not nice people. The people of Syria wanted regime change. The Assads responded by killing lots of people. There was much hand wringing in the west about this. President Obama said that it would be a “red line” if chemical weapons were used. Then, reports of WMD use came in. The President needed to do something.

“He and McDonough stayed outside for an hour. Obama told him he was worried that Assad would place civilians as “human shields” around obvious targets. He also pointed out an underlying flaw in the proposed strike: U.S. missiles would not be fired at chemical-weapons depots, for fear of sending plumes of poison into the air. A strike would target military units that had delivered these weapons, but not the weapons themselves.”

Chemical weapons do not respect borders. If poison gas is released into the air, it will go wherever it wants to go. This includes Syria’s next door neighbor Israel. The role of Israel is the Syrian troubles is kept quiet. It is known that when the Muslims are fighting each other, they are not fighting Israel. This concept kept the Iran-Iraq was going for eight bloody years.

“Ninety minutes later, at the White House, Obama reinforced Kerry’s message in a public statement: “It’s important for us to recognize that when over 1,000 people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we’re sending a signal that that international norm doesn’t mean much. And that is a danger to our national security.”

In this statement, the President was talking about Syria. He could have meant any number of conflicts. Children in Gaza are killed by Israeli cluster bombs. Children in Africa are killed, often by other children, in dozens of wars and guerrilla conflicts. Children in American cities are killed by handguns. It goes on and on.

“I have come to believe that, in Obama’s mind, August 30, 2013, was his liberation day, the day he defied not only the foreign-policy establishment and its cruise-missile playbook, but also the demands of America’s frustrating, high-maintenance allies in the Middle East”

For years it has been a mantra that Israel is the only ally of the United States in the middle east. Of course this is nonsense, as anyone driving a car powered by Arab oil products should know. For Jeffrey Goldberg to acknowledge this may be the most startling thing in this feature.
But not the last. The article goes on, and on, and on. It is full of overblown talk like this:
“Obama said that to achieve this rebalancing, the U.S. had to absorb the diatribes and insults of superannuated Castro manqués.” TOD reads like a Rorschach test. Those who admire the President will find confirmation for their opinions. Those who dislike Obama will also see much they agree with. It is a good question what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton see. This is a repost.









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