by Devona Walker
For a man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize within months of taking office, began his second term with an impassioned vow to bring troops home from Afghanistan and owes his political career to his opposition to the war in Iraq, President Obama’s presidential doctrine is murky at best.
Due to a recently leaked Justice Department memo, we learned the Obama administration’s infamous drone kill list includes U.S. citizens. To make matters worse, it took the administration too long for some to agree to provide information to Congress as to who is on that list and why. This has put Obama at odds with even some of his most long-standing progressives allies.
Progressives were relatively quiet when Obama deemed closing Guantanamo Bay politically unattainable and then expanded the Bush-era use of “warrantless wire-tapping.” Now, many are fed up. Every decision short of putting troops on the ground — from Iran to Syria to his infamous leading from behind strategy in Libya — is denigrated by the right as weakness.
Obama appears to be, ungracefully, balancing drones and doves without bothering to explain or justify the contradiction. He appears to be, while reducing the U.S. military footprint in the Arab World, waging a covert war against individuals as opposed to countries.
If playing the middle is supposed to help avoid the trappings of left and right, it ain’t working.
As a progressive, I gotta say it’s not the drones. If 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan taught me anything, it’s that the war on terror is more like the war on drugs than a traditional military engagement. There’s no “Terror” country with a capital called “Jihad.” The enemy, I get it, is elusive. When you find them, you can’t just gear up an army and storm the castle.
While I understand the complexities involved in fighting terror, the problem with this recent controversy is Obama’s unwillingness to articulate his position. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just arrogance, or if there is a doctrine at all? Perhaps he is just a man responding to events?
The Bush Doctrine, even Sarah Palin knows by now, was simple. It was all about the preemptive strike and this idea that our national security depended upon our willingness to strike the first blow.
With Clinton, it was more nuanced but no less profound. From the escalation in Somalia to Serbia bombings to invading Haiti and all the diplomatic capital spent on Irish and Middle East peace negotiations, Clinton believed instability anywhere was a threat to stability everywhere.
Prior to sending troops to Serbia, Clinton famously said:
“It’s easy…to say that we really have no interests in who lives in this or that valley in Bosnia, or who owns a strip of brushland in the Horn of Africa, or some piece of parched earth by the Jordan River. But the true measure of our interests lies not in how small or distant these places are, or in whether we have trouble pronouncing their names. The question we must ask is, what are the consequences to our security of letting conflicts fester and spread. We cannot, indeed, we should not, do everything or be everywhere. But where our values and our interests are at stake, and where we can make a difference, we must be prepared to do so.”
Shockingly, The Obama Doctrine is more nuanced than Clinton’s, yet less articulate than Bush’s doctrine.
Obama can remain quiet on the drone issue if he wants. He does not have to campaign again, and as long as the end result is fewer U.S. soldiers killed, I doubt the political backlash will build to a critical mass. But the long-term repercussions of this policy could prove even more hazardous than the Bush-era torturing of suspected terrorists, and ultimately we, the American people, deserve an explanation.
Devona Walker is the politics editor for The Burton Wire.
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