The Obama Doctrine

This is from Victor Davis Hanson in what he calls, Obama’s Recessional. There’s nothing about this I find exceptional other than no one seems to care. It ought to frighten the daylights out of Australians sitting out here in the South Pacific but life does seem to go on. This is Hanson summing up Obama’s foreign policy strategy.

The Obama Doctrine is a gradual retreat of the American presence worldwide — on the theory that our absence will lead to a vacuum better occupied by regional powers that know how to manage their neighborhood’s affairs and have greater legitimacy in their own spheres of influence. Any damage that might occur with the loss of the American omnipresence does not approximate the harm already done by American intrusiveness. The current global maladies — Islamist terrorism, Middle Eastern tensions, Chinese muscle-flexing, Russian obstructionism, resurgence of Communist autocracy in Latin America — will fade once the United States lowers its profile and keeps out of other nations’ business.

There is always a balance of forces that asserts itself. It’s basically, you’re on your own except that with Obama, his foreign policy is essentially to support America’s former ideological enemies and abandon its friends. Where, then, do you suppose that leaves Australia? But Hanson also transfers the Obama Doctrine to domestic policy as well.

For Obama, America abroad is analogous to the 1 percent at home. We need not squabble over the reasons why the wealthiest Americans enjoy unequal access to the things money can buy, or why America, of all nations, finds itself with unmatched global clout and influence. The concern is only that such privilege exists; that it is unfair; that it has led to injustice for the majority; and that it must be changed.

Obama, of course, cannot issue a global tax aimed at the United States. He cannot easily expand U.S. foreign aid as a sort of reparations. And he cannot craft the international equivalent of Obamacare. But he does seek the same sort of redistributive readjustment to America’s presence abroad that he does to some Americans at home — in the interests of fairness, equality, and social justice.

Just as the United States would be a lot better place if a few million were not so rich, so too the world would be better off if the United States — and to a lesser extent Europe — were not so powerful and interventionist.

Obama is a man of shallow thoughts and great hatreds. Describing anything that Obama does as a “doctrine” gives it more credit than it deserves. But there are no doubt instinctual attitudes and reactions to specific events and they are more than evident, and if you want to call them a doctrine, be my guest. But whatever you call the structure of America’s foreign and economic policies, they are re-shaping the world. Time moves more rapidly than you think. In this century 911 and the Global Financial Crises are the two most momentous events. In their wake, the world is different now and if we are thinking either who will be the most powerful nation on the planet or where will wealth creation be at its most rapid twenty years from now, what’s your guess? That things will be as they are today is nowhere near even a fifty per cent chance.

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36 Responses to The Obama Doctrine

  1. Alfonso

    The left is going to be apoplectic, Australia is eventually going to have to nuc up.
    US demographic changes make old shared values rapidly fading ties.

  2. Baldrick

    中国将在50年内称霸世界。

  3. The Obama Doctrine? More like Obama Baby Thoughts. Childish envy at its worst. He’s a chimpanzee with a gun.

  4. entropy

    Careful BW. Some lefty will try to distract from the discussion by accusing you of calling a black man an ape,
    Instead of a visual image ofthe silliness of giving a poorly trained recruit an AK47.

  5. Combine_Dave

    中国将在50年内称霸世界。

    不是。中国现在是世界冠军。

    Kidding. Militarily Japan and South Korea are more than a match for China’s largely defense focused armed forces.
    And economically China is heavily dependent on international trade; hell it’s prosperity is literately built on it’s being the world’s factory. Due to it’s huge population China is also dependent on energy and food imports. Not really a strong, world leading position to be in when surrounded by unfriendly neighbors.

    Just a quick thought; Maybe the world would be a better place with Obama’s America (and fellow travelers) keeping out of the way?

  6. C.L.

    Worst president in US history.

  7. entropy

    So, China today is like japan in the 1930s then?

  8. desperate

    Us interventionist policies have been a disaster for the world over the last 50 years..Vietnam, Lebanon, Africa, Iraq, Afganistan to name just a few. This policy recognises that their world policeman role has beggared the USA. They cannot afford to indulge in these foreign wars while their own citizens are deprived of adequate health, education, welfare.

  9. Walter Plinge

    CL: Worst president in US history.

    Jimmy Carter take first place, surely. He’s still rabitting on and causing trouble.

  10. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    The Obama Doctrine? [cue cynical laughter]

    Oh, you mean the incompetent squander-monkey’s deliberate gutting of US military power to fund welfare bludgers.

    Been watching this with rising disquiet since this brainless, shallow little narcissist was elected.

    How bad is it?

    Bad.

    The USN will reduce deployed carrier strength to two ships this year. One will probably be in the western Pacific, the other in the Indian Ocean. The USN will ‘replace’ the other deployments with an ARG and the matrines will eventually have STOVL F-35. Of course, this ‘replacement’ is nothing of the sort, the ARG’s are already there, the carrier they support is going away!

    We are not quite, not yet, on our own, but it is coming. Our response should be to quietly look at expanding the Five Power Defence Arrangement to include Indonesia and India. FPDA has, for decades, run the largest maritime -naval exercise in the world which does not include the USA.

    It also goes without saying that we need to seriously ramp up our military capability, starting now. The USN is going to have a number of modern warships and aircraft available very soon but our first move should be announced in May’s budget, fast-tracked purchase of a Squadron of F-35B for the two new LHD and teh re-establishment of teh fixed wing component of the FAA.

    Next among these should be a fourth AA cruiser (let’s stop the political nonsense of calling the CLAA an ‘AWD’) and a lease arrangement for three SSN so we can take our first baby steps in the SSN game. Yes yes, base them out of Honolulu while we build the facilities to maintain them ourselves at a re-activated Cockatoo Island. it’s intrinsically secure and already has the Sutherland Dock, which can be roofed over for additional security.

    This is just the start. There is three more years of headlong US power collapse ahead of us, and the capabilities Preshizzle Incompetent the Brainhead (Paco™) is destroying will take decades to rebuild – and arguably cannot be until the USA experiences a ‘constitutional reboot’.

  11. Eyrie

    Mk 50 Agreed.
    We’ll probably need to treble our defence expenditure.

  12. Chris M

    Slightly OT but of course has an Obama connection: Oklahoma considering libertarian marriage.

    “What happens when the federal judiciary tells states that they can no longer define the terms of marriage? One state might just take itself out of the marriage business. “

  13. JamesK

    Jimmy Carter take first place, surely. He’s still rabitting on and causing trouble.

    It’s all just a futile intellectual exercise and VDH knows it.

    The US came back from Carter.

    The people were mislead by the Dem-MSM Complex back then as well but they self-corrected and fired Carter as early as humanly possible.

    With the same demographics as 1979 Romney would have won in a bigger landslide than Reagan.

    The USA as constituted is now officially fubar.

    Therefore Obummer is indeed the worst president in US history but he isn’t actually the fundamental problem.

    Obummer is merely the symptom of the problem.

    Rubio or Cruz are the only hope in that they may possibly be able to re-educate Americans but it’s a very very faint hope.

  14. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    Slightly OT, Chris M??

    That’s what open threads are for, we’ve had an ongoing marriage debate there for years….

  15. matrines (sic) will eventually have STOVL F-35

    No doubt this new and innovative corps will find the STOVL capability useful when emptying dunny carts in hostile environments….

  16. Louis Hissink

    The US was until recently the only force against global communism, cold war etc, but if the FDR doctrine of convergence happened, that we are now all happy social democrats, and we don’t need a mighty military anymore, then this Obama-Doctrine is logical.

    And then I have the feeling I don’t know the half of it…….

  17. Tel

    Militarily Japan and South Korea are more than a match for China’s largely defense focused armed forces.

    I think that because of Western Capitalist cultural ties India will probably be more inclined to team up with Japan and South Korea against China rather than the other way around. It seems like a strange time for China to get militant right now when other countries are busy defeating themselves and a war would give them something meaningful to focus on. The US Navy still patrols the world’s oceans and that’s not going to change this decade.

    China wins the “most improved award” by taking onboard Western technology. That’s great, now then next step is to actually be a leader, which is much more difficult.

  18. Careful BW.

    I quickly realized that after I wrote it, but then thought “it takes a racist to see that before the more obvious meaning”, so I left it there. Obviously, it’s a metaphor for a person with more power than they understand.

  19. tomix

    Worst prez? Woodrow Wilson. Federal income tax & joined WW1 after being re- elected on a policy
    of keeping out of European Affairs.

  20. Worst prez? Woodrow Wilson. Federal income tax & joined WW1 after being re- elected on a policy
    of keeping out of European Affairs.

    This. He was also a fascist who passed laws prohibiting anyone from criticising the government in wartime.

  21. Chris M

    Ha Mk50 didn’t see those, prehistoric blog format and all…

    Obama just seems to act like how he was brought up to me, as a Sunni Moslem.

  22. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    The Indian ‘Look East’ policy is their counter to the Chinese encirclement strategy against India, and it is having some success. Their defence and economic ties with Vietnam are being deepened, as are their relations (on a bilateral basis) with ASEAN.

    Similarly, their carrier program continues to make progress (if not smooth progress) and their vist locally built hull is in the water now.

  23. Makka

    Danesh has Obama pegged perfectly IMO.

    Obama sees it thus; the US as a great malignant colonising power that has expanded it’s reach and forces across the globe especially during the post colonial/Cold War period. In so doing, the US caused immense suffering and hardship in the third/developing world (particularly in Africa and Asia where Obama grew up and formed his socialist political foundations). His mission as POTUS is to roll that all back as well redistribute wealth in the US. His deference to Islam is his personal FU to the West and all it has “done” to “his” people (the 3rd world) “Obama is a man of shallow thoughts and great hatreds” Exactly. But also very very dangerous.

    This is a watershed period for the US (and us!), I agree Steve. Because until we see a Republican President in the WH the likelihood this “doctrine” will continue in some form is highly likely. If Hilary gets the guernsey next time we will see a massive ramp up in the domestic social agenda ( at the expense of the US military). I agree with you also Mk50, we need to rapidly strengthen/deepen relations in the region (India and SEA) across all manner of endeavours, especially trade and joint military, in case the US roll back includes abandoning/diminishing ANZUS.

  24. Harry Buttle

    Combine Dave said – “And economically China is heavily dependent on international trade; hell it’s prosperity is literately built on it’s being the world’s factory. Due to it’s huge population China is also dependent on energy and food imports. Not really a strong, world leading position to be in when surrounded by unfriendly neighbors.”

    Unfortunately, to a large extent you have just described Imperial Japan pre WW2 (substitute the British Empire and USA for Japan and Korea in your example), throw in the sort of distraction that N.Korea can provide and Sth Korea is largely out of the equation (like much of the empire), so, with almost exactly the same facts at their disposal, Imperial Japan came to the conclusion that the solution was to seize and fortify the Pacific to secure access to vital resources.

    I must admit, this morning I was just thinking that it might be time for Australia to start talking to the Japanese about developing a ‘pre nuclear’ weapons capability (ie kit form) and an Australian drone (aka cruise missile) industry.

    It is not just that Obama and his ilk will leave allies out to dry for domestic political gain, with increasing US debt comes decreasing ability to act, like it or not large parts of the world that have let the USA carry the big stick for them are going to have to start looking at funding their own.

  25. one old bruce

    “because of Western Capitalist cultural ties India will probably be more inclined to team up with Japan and South Korea against China”

    Umm, no Tel. India will go with whoever makes the best offer, as it did with the Soviets and now does with Putin’s Russia and Iran. (But they’re not happy with the Russians who cheated them on aircraft carriers and are practically colonizing Goan beaches creating exclusive Russian enclaves there, while Japan has recently opened up talks with India – too little too late?).

    BUT CHINA HAS BEEN IN A COLD WAR WITH INDIA FOR THE PAST 50 YEARS.
    Yet typically no one in the ‘wider world’ has noticed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Indian_War

    The popularly supposed Indian ‘conflict with Pakistan’ which stupid Clintonites believe in is actually a conflict with China by proxy, beginning when Pakistan gave away crucial territory to China enabling them to invade Tibet:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aksai_Chin
    Pakistan has remained a China client
    http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2013/03/24/chinas-strategic-interests-in-pakistans-port-at-gwadar/
    China has practically succeeded in surrounding India with naval bases, welcomed in Sri Lanka too, and the Himalayas are always a possible flashpoint over water supplies and rivers.
    http://thediplomat.com/2013/12/india-and-china-are-not-destined-to-clash/
    - wishful thinking?

    Good grief you idiots, stop taking India for granted as ‘Mr Tagalong’, which they never were anyway.

  26. Combine_Dave

    So, China today is like japan in the 1930s then?

    I am reasonably certain that they don’t have an intention to launch a strike on Pearl Harbor anytime soon.

    Aside from being a one party state there’s a lot of significant differences between Imperial Japan and modern day crony communist/capitalist China.

    The lack of an expansionist ideology for one and using global trade rather than invasions to procure natural resources the way Imperial Japan did for another.

  27. Combine_Dave

    I think that because of Western Capitalist cultural ties India will probably be more inclined to team up with Japan and South Korea against China rather than the other way around. It seems like a strange time for China to get militant right now when other countries are busy defeating themselves and a war would give them something meaningful to focus on. The US Navy still patrols the world’s oceans and that’s not going to change this decade.

    There’s always territorial disputes between India and China that would see India happy to join a coalition of containment and estranglement of China.

    But then again, aside from keeping the pressure up on Japan over their current Island dispute they have no reason to be militant. China has nothing to gain and everything to lose in initiating a large scale military conflict now.

  28. Makka

    “China has nothing to gain and everything to lose in initiating a large scale military conflict now.”

    True. However, China would certainly not be averse to using militaristic tactics to buttress negotiations across a number of regional issues, including disputed borders (which include the resources beneath them).

  29. Combine_Dave

    Unfortunately, to a large extent you have just described Imperial Japan pre WW2 (substitute the British Empire and USA for Japan and Korea in your example), throw in the sort of distraction that N.Korea can provide and Sth Korea is largely out of the equation (like much of the empire), so, with almost exactly the same facts at their disposal, Imperial Japan came to the conclusion that the solution was to seize and fortify the Pacific to secure access to vital resources.

    Seems pretty far fetched, what makes you think that China wouldn’t be drawn into any North-South Korea conflict to help bail out the North? Besides they have need of their military to hold onto their existing territory/provinces. Any major conflict with any power would be likely to threaten this prime (from the perspective of the CCP) objective of territorial integrity.

    Chinese companies have access to global markets to purchase commodities and resources unless this changes (due to some kind of allied embargo?) I don’t think they have the need to use conquest to obtain resources (unlike Imperial Japan).

  30. Harry Buttle

    Dave, the Americans were pretty sure that Japan wasn’t about to strike Pearl Harbor back then, but they did, two nations can see exactly the same situation and draw totally different conclusions as to how to solve the problem.

    However China doesn’t need to hit Pearl, the USA is declining and China has 8% of their debt, you don’t have to increase that too much (and the US is still planning big spending) to be able to threaten the US with exactly the same sort of problems as the US threatened the Brits with in the Suez crisis.

    re China getting drawn into a N v S Korea fight, why? all they need do is push some supplies, food and gear towards NK on the condition that NK stirs up a heap of trouble and S Korea is going to focus very closely on the troublesome nuclear armed nutcases in arty range of Seoul, but given the WMDs, S Korea is not in a position to invade to try to end the threat and thus draw China into it or do you believe that S Korea would attack China?

    As you pointed out, China needs resources they don’t have domestically, as they get stronger and the USA gets weaker, the temptation to start annexing resources rather than trading for them will increase, as such it would be wise for Australia to start seriously raising the bar as to what it would take to start interfering with our interests. historically weakness is provocation.

  31. disillusioned

    Nobody seems to be taking the disputes in the South China sea seriously. The Chinese will not allow what it claims be national resources fall to a foreign state. Nor has the issue of Taiwan been considered amongst the options should things get rough in the protecting their perceived interests. If the Chinese believe that Obama will not react with any force then they may seek to resolve outstanding issues before a Republican president is in power. It would not take much to escalate current disputes especially if a propaganda war like the pre-Poland invasion by Germany is started. Dress up a few dead dissidents as Chinese navy and marines, accuse the Philippines of murdering their small force in the Spratly Islands, very easy to contrive. Rig similar incidents with Vietnam and Malaysia and all of sudden China owns the South China sea and what are you going to do about it short of declaring war. Embargos? Really? How much does China supply now that the rest of the world doesn’t? Think rare earth metals – very important in todays technology, especially for high end military use. As the world is at the moment nothing is certain.

  32. gabrianga

    To me Obama is no more than a tool, perhaps a useless tool, who is fronting for the “World Government”
    supporters.

    The man has displayed his willingness to lean the Left since entering the Senate and his “great political oratory” comes from someone else’s script laid out for him on his autocue.

    Arrogant (I have a pen and a phone),dishonest (Obamacare in it’s entirety) unpatriotic(Benghazi) and pushed to near frenzied paranoia about one TV outlet and a radio shock jock.

    We have had some in Australia not fit to lead but never one so bad and dangerous as the “Chosen One”

  33. Alfonso

    “Embargos? Really? How much does China supply now that the rest of the world doesn’t.”

    China understands that it is the most easily energy blockaded nation on earth. The Straits of Malacca and the northern Australia passages are easily closed, the Cape of Good Hope / Cape Horn route is impractical.
    In any real conflict China gets no energy by sea = short war.
    Military use of rationed rare earths take priority for a while over home electronics, so what.

  34. Combine_Dave

    Dave, the Americans were pretty sure that Japan wasn’t about to strike Pearl Harbor back then, but they did, two nations can see exactly the same situation and draw totally different conclusions as to how to solve the problem.

    Harry, the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor in order to cripple America’s ability to respond to Japan’s incursions into Asia. At the very least China has this historical teachable moment to know that a single strike won’t be enough to prevent America from fighting and winning a war the Asia. Particular now in the 21st century where America has so many assets and bases in many nations throughout Asian, such a decisive attack would never be feasible.

    As you pointed out above:

    However China doesn’t need to hit Pearl, the USA is declining and China has 8% of their debt, you don’t have to increase that too much (and the US is still planning big spending) to be able to threaten the US with exactly the same sort of problems as the US threatened the Brits with in the Suez crisis.

    China in effect doesn’t need to do anything further. They don’t need to inflame a in Korea as a distraction to wrest power away from the West. America and Europe (with the possible exception of Germany) have destroyed themselves through their debt fueled big spending ways, and the spread of the associated entitlement mentality.

    China just has to sit back and watch as American and western power declines further, the economic decline inevitably will have flow on effects to their military. Whether it is is Obama or some future Republican; cut backs and future balancing of the budget will eventually be necessary.

    re China getting drawn into a N v S Korea fight, why? all they need do is push some supplies, food and gear towards NK on the condition that NK stirs up a heap of trouble and S Korea is going to focus very closely on the troublesome nuclear armed nutcases in arty range of Seoul, but given the WMDs, S Korea is not in a position to invade to try to end the threat and thus draw China into it or do you believe that S Korea would attack China?

    Because currently China “enjoys” the buffer zone that NKorea provides against its adversaries, allowing NKorea to go to war with SKorea would end and remove this buffer once and for all and would result in one of two outcomes (both bad from the perspective of the Chinese):

    i) A united, democratized, westernized and heavily armed Korea.
    ii) A ruined wasteland with streams of refugees flowing into China, damaging the PRC’s social cohesion and order (important for a totalitarian communist state). Not to mention if such a war went nuclear the impacts of radioactivefall out on China itself.

    As you pointed out, China needs resources they don’t have domestically, as they get stronger and the USA gets weaker, the temptation to start annexing resources rather than trading

    The resources China wants and is currently getting from Australia, Africa, Brazil etc.. would not easily be annexed by China as opposed to purchased on the open market. As I pointed out, they would have no need to use force to obtain the resources they require if they have access to global trade.

    Imagine the cost to China of waging a war against Korea, Japan (Taiwan?) and any hostile countries along the way so they can setup a China First Mine in Australia/Africa/Latin America as opposed to simply sending some skilled engineers/managers as immigrants to said nations with some FDI cash in hand.

    for them will increase, as such it would be wise for Australia to start seriously raising the bar as to what it would take to start interfering with our interests. historically weakness is provocation.

    Absolutely right. Just look at how regularly and easily Indonesia breaches our sovereignty by spamming our borders with boat people and those guys are equipped only with rotten fishing boats. Sadly I don’t think Australian Government policy reflects this reality. Maybe ditch the terribly expensive and ineffectual locally made equipment and we’d be able to afford a real military. – Korea, Japan and Taiwan all manufacture vital and critical pieces of military equipment and at low low prices relative to the Americans and ourselves. We could afford a lot more if we diversified our sources of military kit.

    But yes, carrying a bigger stick would benefit Australia immensely, however due to the state of the budget it would seem perilous to bankrupt ourselves further by purchasing more and more stripped down and dated equipment from the USA when our allies (and enemies?) in the region are often using much much better.

    In terms of the bigger picture it would certainly be in our best interests (similar to Johnny Howard’s philosophy when in Gov) to maintain close relations with the USA, while diversify the source of military purchases with an end goal of capability v cost, and deepening our trade, FDI, student and government linkages with Singapore, ROC, PRC, SKorea and Japan to ensure we squeeze the maximum benefit from the existing Asian century/commodities boom before it’s over.

    Just like we couldn’t rely on the British to protect Australia from the Japanese in WW2, we can’t be dependent on far away USA when pursuing our own interests and defence in Asia now.

  35. Yohan

    Victor Davis Hanson is one of my favourite writers from National Review (he is one of my favourite writers online in general) – when he is talking about domestic affairs.

    When it comes to foreign policy he is a typical Neocon, bomb bomb Iran, aggressive US military power projection e.t.c

  36. Combine_Dave

    Dress up a few dead dissidents as Chinese navy and marines, accuse the Philippines of murdering their small force in the Spratly Islands,

    Didn’t you see the incident where the philippines machine gunned a ROC fisherman in international waters just off the coast of the Philippines.

    This incident failed to provoke a war with PRC China.

    Did result in ROC (Taiwan) demonstrating that they had the ability to effectively control this area whether the Philipinnes wanted them there or not.

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