U.S. presidential doctrines are defined as "key goals, attitudes, or stances for United States foreign affairs outlined by Presidents."
The Bush Doctrine famously included two power-based tenets, as aggressively demonstrated by the 2003 Bush/Cheney attack on and occupation of Iraq:
- Preemptive strikes against potential enemies of the United States, and
- Promoting democratic regime change when the Bush administration found it preferable.
In stark contrast, the Obama Doctrine is humanitarian-based policy of, when possible, protecting people who are threatened by the "prospect of violence on a horrific scale."
President Obama believes American values-based exceptionalism cedes to the U.S. a leadership role on the world stage... "that the United States, as the world's most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help" as part of an international coalition.
In even starker contrast to the Bush Doctrine, the Obama Doctrine postulates that the U.S. has no right to decide leadership for another country. While President Obama may want Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to immediately step down, the U.S. has no right to enforce its preference on another country.
Hubris vs. humility: the contrast between the two presidential doctrines couldn't be clearer.
- The Bush Doctrine envisions the U.S. as the bullying leader of the world, more powerful and important than the rest of the world. Ready to enforce its nationalistic vision using military might.
- The Obama doctrine envisions the U.S. as one among the world's nations. Part of the world community, but with a special leadership role to play, based on our moral "responsibilities to our fellow human beings."
I was continually horrified during the Bush administration by the bullying hubris of the Bush Doctrine.
As a liberal who abhors war but realizes that conflict can be necessary, I fully subscribe to the Obama Doctrine. I'm especially gratified by the respectful humility implicit in President Obama's vision of the U.S. as part of the larger world community.
As far as specifics of the present-day Libyan conflict, I agree with The Economist which writes this week in The birth of an Obama doctrine:
"It is a good case--and it was a good speech. If Colonel Qaddafi is swept quickly from power, or reduced to impotence in some bunker, nobody will care very much about the manner in which Mr Obama put together his alliance and campaign. It might indeed be remembered as an extraordinary foreign-policy success.
"After the rescue of Kuwait in 1991, however, the first President George Bush also expected Saddam Hussein's regime to collapse in short order. Mr Obama's team says the circumstances this time are entirely different. They had better be right."
- Essential Reading
- The Obama Doctrine on Foreign Intervention and War
- Text of President Obama's Declaration of Libya Military Action made on March 19, 2011
- President Obama Acted Justly, Morally on Libyan Conflict