Obama’s Flexibility Doctrine

Defining Obama's unifying doctrine has, to date, been a difficult task. As he approaches a likely second term, the picture is becoming more clear - Obama is pursuing a 'Flexibility Doctrine'

What's behind the face?
Joel D. Hirst
On 2 April 2012 09:06

For three years those following United States Presidential politics have struggled to define the unifying doctrine which would be the hallmark of President Obama’s time in office. This has been difficult, for there hasn’t appeared to be any guiding principle which has governed decision-making.

Without a clear vision of this doctrine, attempting to negotiate or find common ground with Barack Obama’s administration – for friend and foe alike – has been a confusing maze of insults, snubs, and betrayal which has left allies and foes in congress baffled and some of America’s most sacrosanct alliances in tatters. 

Take, for instance, the scorched earth approach to health care reform; and the simultaneous chastising of the Supreme Court during the State of the Union address (a court that, Obama must have known, he would eventually need). Add to this the constant reneging on agreements made with the Speaker of the House on debt or budgetary issues. Now couple this with the incessant calls for increasing taxes on certain segments of society while making backdoor deals with pharmaceutical companies and Wall Street tycoons; and the rejecting of the Keystone Pipeline while blaming others for high gas prices.

The willingness to use lethal force on Muammar Gaddafi or Osama Bin Laden – by any analysis threats of the past – while allowing Bashar al Assad to murder thousands of Syrians. Now consider the assassination of American citizens in caves in foreign countries, and the illegal weapons running into Mexico and Central America. Finally, mix these in with counter-intuitive acts of spite like returning the bust of Winston Churchill, and leaving “Bibi” Netanyahu twiddling his thumbs while Obama dined with family; while erstwhile bowing to a Saudi King and coyly receiving the insulting gifts of Hugo Chavez – and a very inconsistent picture emerges.

Nobody quite knew what to make of this. Were these acts simply a result of inexperience? Were they the occasional manifestations of a much more radical agenda, conspiratorially planned in the halls of Harvard; but much more difficult to implement upon having reached the oval office?

Then a “hot mike” in a foreign land reveals a startling picture. “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama said to Dmitri Medvedev, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” “I will deliver this message to Vladimir,” the excited Medvedev is heard responding, “I am with you.” A message that might have sounded reassuring to Obama, but which sent a shudder down the spines of all the Americans who remember the cold war, or who are currently seeking movement on Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, and a host of other issues to which Russia has been an obstacle, not a partner. A quick, flirty hand-squeeze sealed a deal that had just gone public.

And, in an explosion of the information age the Obama Doctrine was announced to the world.

They key question being asked by everybody is, “for what does President Obama believe he needs flexibility found in re-election to achieve?”

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