The Obama Doctrine - One Country Among Many
by Charles Lemos, Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 09:19:15 AM EDT
For an internationalist like myself, Barack Obama is certainly a welcomed breath of fresh air. His resetting of US foreign policy from that Bush standard of American exceptionalism and even the Clinton standard of an American-led globalization that to many seemed more like Americanization than globalization is a welcomed departure and perhaps suggests an America that can learn from its mistakes and more importantly from others. For too long, American foreign policy has been predicated on a notion that only the United States has it right and that the rest of the world would do well to replicate the American way of life.
At a news conference ending the three-day Summit of the Americas on Sunday in Port-of-Spain, a reporter asked the President about an emerging "Obama Doctrine."
The President responded that first, he remains intent on telling the world that the United States is a powerful and wealthy nation that realizes it is just one country among many. Obama said he believes that other countries have "good ideas" and interests that cannot be ignored. This may send the American right into an apoplectic fit but it casts a glow of warmth and good feelings from the rest of the world towards the United States. The United States is owning up to its excesses and mistakes. In short, it is demonstrating a maturity and indeed a confidence not ever before demonstrated by American foreign policy.
Second, while the United States best represents itself by living up to its universal values and ideas, the President said the United States must also respect the variety of cultures and perspectives that guide both American foes and friends.
"I firmly believe that if we're willing to break free from the arguments and ideologies of an earlier era and continue to act, as we have at this summit, with a sense of mutual responsibility and mutual respect and mutual interest, then each of our nations can come out of this challenging period stronger and more prosperous, and we can advance opportunity, equality, and security across the Americas," the President said.
The Obama Doctrine, it is what the world wants. And I'll note that senior adviser David Axelrod describes the President's tactics this way, "You plant, you cultivate, you harvest. Over time, the seeds that were planted here are going to be very, very valuable."
I find that remarkable for just yesterday Argentina's La Nación opined that the Summit was "the seed of a new relationship" between Latin America and the United States. After years of bitter fruit, the harvest for succeeding generations promises to be very sweet indeed.
Update [2009-4-20 14:1:49 by Charles Lemos]: Clive Crook of the Financial Times also finds that there is an emerging Obama Doctrine.
Can one begin to talk of an Obama doctrine? If style and temperament can constitute a doctrine, the answer is yes. The intellectual traits that Mr Obama says he most prizes in himself and those around him are pragmatism and perseverance. Many would say that Mr Bush also had perseverance, carried to the point of dull-witted obstinacy, but nobody ever accused him of pragmatism. Mr Obamas willingness to start anew, ask what works, offer respect to governments that crave it (even if they may not deserve it) and patiently seek progress where he may is refreshing. One aspect of this pragmatism is the presidents desire to build alliances and cool old enmities, and work towards US aims through co-operation rather than confrontation. The trouble is, most US presidents including Mr Obamas predecessor felt the same way until the world beat it out of them. Foreign policy doctrine is put to the test only when co-operation in pursuit of mutual interests fails to achieve results, and the hard choices that Mr Obama insists he is willing to make actually present themselves. Though it is much too soon to write off Mr Obamas friendly overtures, you could hardly describe them so far as a notable success.
Agreed. I am not arguing that President has necessarily met with success. In some cases, his approach has not met with any tangible results. For example on Afghanistan, the President asked NATO for more help in that fight and came away with a paltry commitment of 5,000 troops of which 3,000 are only through August of this year. Hardly a success. But it is too early to expect results much less gauge them. Rome wasn't built in a day nor did its empire crumble overnight. Imperial America was an enterprise of centuries. It will take time for the United States and the world to adjust to the new realm of thought, even if it has long been reality, that the United States is just one country among many.