Monday, July 6, 2009

The Barack Doctrine: Status Quo, Status Quo Ante

Teddy Roosevelt walked softly and carried a big stick. James Monroe declared that the United States would not interfere in Europe, and warned Europe to stay out of the Americas. Harry Truman believed in containment, Jimmy Carter in human rights, and Ronald Reagan in engagement. . . trust but verify.

Is there a Barack Doctrine? Indeed there is. President Obama has shown repeatedly that he desires to vote “present” in foreign policy, and that his administration will toss aside all of their principles to maintain the status quo (as things are) or, where the status quo has been shattered, to return to the status quo ante (as things were).

Status Quo

During the campaign, candidate Obama spoke of engaging the world in dialog. He promised to improve America’s image and to defend human rights. He criticized modern soft-dictators like Chavez, who were elected as democrats, but ruled as tyrants, and he talked of breaking with the past. But that was then.
Observe that in each of the following instances, Obama subsumed his principles to maintain the status quo. . .

• China. . .

The first test for the young administration was China. Candidate Obama criticized China for its human rights, for their failure to fight intellectual piracy, for their suppression of Tibet, for the safety of their products, and for their currency manipulation. He swore he would hold their feet to the fire and might even ban some of their products.

But President Obama wants China to buy his debt. So his first official act was to send Hillary Clinton to bow and scrape and to assure China that he would never pressure them. When this was not enough, and China threatened to stop buying U.S. debt, Obama sent Tim Geithner to plead for the status quo.

• Russia. . .

Next came the Russians, who had invaded Georgia, cut off natural gas supplies to Europe, worked tirelessly to help Iran develop nuclear power, and threatened several NATO allies. Candidate Obama boldly proclaimed that he wouldn’t “shy away from pushing democracy, transparency, and accountability.”

His efforts to date? Obama sent Hillary Clinton with a gag gift (a reset button) and otherwise refrained from any actions that might upset Russia. End result: status quo maintained.

• India. . .

George Bush was roundly criticized by the left for allowing India to make a mockery of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under that Treaty, all signatories must withhold civilian nuclear technology from any regime that has not ratified the Treaty. Even though India refuses to sign the Treaty, Bush negotiated a deal with India, whereby the United States would transfer nuclear technology to India. Obama’s party called this despicable and said that it sends the wrong message to countries like Iran and North Korean.

President Obama claims that non-proliferation is a primary focus of his foreign policy. Yet, not only did he publicly state that he is “fully committed” to implementing the Bush deal, but Hillary Clinton even voiced the hope that this arrangement (which violates the Treaty) can “serve as the foundation of a productive partnership on non-proliferation.” Again, the status quo is preserved.

• North Korea . . .

Candidate Obama promised “sustained, direct and aggressive diplomacy” to handle North Korea. He called for the strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the imposition of “strong international sanctions” against North Korea for any violation of United Nations resolutions. He even stated his belief that the United States needs a missile defense system to counter North Korea’s threat.

President Obama has warned that North Korea is a “grave threat” and said that he would “not tolerate” North Korea’s strategy of extracting rewards with belligerent behavior.

But beyond that, no amount of nuclear tests, missile tests, threats to rain a “fire shower of nuclear retaliation” on South Korea, or seized journalists has resulted in anything approaching a “strong sanction” or “sustained, direct, or aggressive diplomacy.” Again, Obama avoids disturbing the status quo.

• The Arab World. . .

The Arab world is a mess. The “good” countries are run by tyrannical dictators. The poorly run ones are run by the theologically insane. They support terrorism world wide and hate America for things we have never done and never will, and they use their hatred of America and claims of victimhood at our hands as a crutch to justify their own failures.

Candidate Obama told us that he was uniquely suited to travel to the Arab world and change this. Unlike honkus maximus, he could gain Arab sympathy. He was a fresh start, and that would let him set the record straight -- America has no interest in a crusade, he would proclaim, and all would be good.

President Obama traveled to Egypt, birth place of the Muslim Brotherhood (an old guard member of the terrorism fraternity) and home to a repressive Egyptian regime, and from his mouth did come the words: (and I paraphrase) “it’s not you. . . it’s us. We need to change. Give us time. Don’t do anything until I get back to you.” And thus, the status quo was preserved.

• Guantanamo Bay. . .

Candidate Obama promised to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and restore habeas corpus for the detainees before his rear hit the Oval chair. When President Obama learned this would cause problems, he opted for the status quo.

• Iraq. . .

Candidate Obama promised to “responsibly end the war in Iraq,” and to remove all U.S. troops by the end of 2009. President Obama plans to remove only “combat” troops, by the end of August 2010, though this will leave “30,000-50,000 troops in advisory roles.” Once again, he opts for the status quo.
Status Quo Ante

But what will Obama do when the genie has left the bottle and shattered the status quo? In that event, Obama’s policy becomes one of status quo ante -- the quest for the peace before. Thus, if you want to know which party Obama will support in any conflict, do not look for his stated principles, look to see who caused the issue to become of international interest, he will oppose that party.

• Iran. . .

Candidate Obama promised “tough, direct presidential diplomacy” with the Iranian regime to solve the misunderstanding that had vexed Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush. He extended his open hand, and Iran spit in it. Obama quietly slunk off.
Then in 2009, after a rigged election, the people of Iran flooded their streets in a budding revolution akin to those that crushed the tyrants of Eastern Europe. Obama, the human rights candidate, the man who thought he could solve everything with words, found himself strangely silent. Indeed, he barely raised a peep as the regime shielded the eyes of the outside world and crushed their own people.

Why did he not even speak out for the protection of these people? After all of his talk about human rights and supporting democracy around the world, would it not seem to make sense that he would support the people of Iran? I would, except that it was the people attempting to overturn their government that were disturbing the status quo. It was their actions, not the rigged elections, which brought this issue to a head as an international issues, rather than just an intranational issue. Thus, he remained silent in the hopes of restoring the comfort of the status quo ante.

• Honduras. . .

The final piece of the puzzle came last week. Obama sided with the repressive regimes in China and Iran, so giving a quick nod to a “military junta” should be no big deal. But it was. Why? What was different? This “junta” was disrupting the status quo.

By arresting Zelaya and throwing him out of the country, the Honduras Supreme Court and military elevated their dispute with President Zelaya from an intranational issue to an international issue. It did not matter that Zelaya acted illegally or that he provoked the incident, or that the Honduran government acted in accordance with the rule of law. . . they forced the issue to rise to the level where Obama had to become involved. Thus, he chose the side of Zelaya, in the hopes of restoring the status quo ante, so that he could return to ignoring the country.
Whether you call Obama’s policy supporting the current world order or the policy of hope for no change, it is clearly guided by a strong desire to avoid anything that disrupts the status quo. And as this becomes more and more obvious, look for foreign governments to learn that they can exploit his desire to vote present to extract amazing concessions.

Indeed, this week, India and Russia both proposed ending the dollar’s status as a reserve currency. Neither country is likely serious because the effects would be disastrous on the vast reserves of dollars they hold, but it will get concessions from Obama.

Russia is demanding the scrapping of the Eastern Europe missile defense system and the abandonment by NATO of Georgia and the Ukraine. North Korea wants money. And everybody else is getting their wish lists ready.


Unknown said...

Andrew: Excellent analysis. A leader leads, and even then leading from a position of weakness and confusion is as bad as having no leader at all. Both the status quo and the status quo ante are being used by Obama for political expediency, not out of leadership skills. That might not even be a bad idea, if he had any idea where he is going with it.

What worries me most about Obama is that the one area where he is showing genuine leadership skills is the destruction of the American economy. He is going where no President has gone before (and shouldn't have). The status quo post is a truly frightening prospect.

AndrewPrice said...


I concur. I don't necessarily disagree with everything Obama has done. For example, I think the India deal makes sense. His North Korea policy makes sense as well.

But I think that if it becomes clear to our enemies (and even our friends) that the US will do what it takes to keep from having to do anything, then I think Obama will guarantee himself a world of trouble.

AndrewPrice said...

I also think it is interesting that the left, which whines so much about human rights when the Republicans are in charge, and which constantly denounced the Republicans for "failing" to challenge our worst friends, has abandoned even the pretense of standing for those things the moment they take office.

I wonder if it was all just for show in the first place, or whether Obama is a real disappointment to them?

patti said...

i'd send him my ass-kickin' boots if i thought he'd put them on. but we all know he doesn't have it in him...

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, I think Obama will be more than happy to take out his frustrations on an easy target. But beyond that. . . not interested.

Unknown said...

Andrew and Patti: We also need to remember that there is something very off-kilter about Obama's views on the Islamic threat. He reacts to crises in other parts of the world as weak-kneed at best. But when it comes to the world of the Muslims, he seems to be totally paralyzed if it seems that he might even be slightly leaning toward stopping nuclear proliferation or violent suppression of nascent freedom movements. As I've said before, I don't believe Obama is a "secret Muslim," but I believe his whole worldview has been strongly influenced by his early upbringing in a Muslim household and in a Muslim nation.

CrisD said...

Great compilation. As I review the facts I give him no more than a C- (especially lowered by the Egyptian speech.)

As to his Muslim leanings-that Pastor and mentor seemed more Muslim than Christian. Don't think we can "write-off" what goes on in Pres. Obama's head in regards to religious sympathies. (IMO)

AndrewPrice said...

CrisD, thanks.

I agree with you and Lawhawk that his religious training is suspect to say the least. Though, right now he doesn't seem interested in the Muslim world so much as he seems interested in there just not being any problems that he has to deal with.

Compare Obama with Bill Clinton who started slowly, but very quickly turned to nation building all over the place -- Haiti, Serbia, Somalia.

It will be interesting to see how he evolves in the future.

Tennessee Jed said...

I concur - an excellent analysis. In my view, Obama campaigned against Bush as the "cowboy" because it played well to voters who were tired of war and bought the liberal media's portrayal of Bush. As things unfold, I believe he is as uninterested in foreign policy as both 41 and 43 were with domestic policy. This, of course, is scary, but he is on a mission to remake America in the great liberal socialist tradition and "level the playing field" by redistributing what little wealth remains among his constituency and making us perpetually dependent on government for our economic security. To this end, keeping things "status quo" directly supports that agenda.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, that is the perfect summary of what I think is going on in his mind -- he doesn't want the world to distract him from his domestic agenda.

The problem is that the world is full of sharks and when they sense weakness, they pounce because they know they can use that to get goodies. It could be a very bumpy four years for us overseas.

freedom21 said...

Putin=Great white shark.

It was intersting that Obama was constantly stressing the Cold War in his trip. Last time I checked, it ended nearly twenty years ago and Russia has been getting over it nicely...Still, it does show his naivete towards world leaders. Obama, the guys youre talking to are the ones who lost, you might wanna not rub it in their faces.

AndrewPrice said...


You're absolutely right about Putin.

I thought it was hilarious that Obama received such an utterly cold reception in Russia -- even from their media.

And they got what they wanted. They are again a valuable player in Europe, they have "agreed" to let us use their territory to resupply Afghanistan (after they got others in the region to shut us out), and they got a promise that lets them cut their military budget -- in exchange for nothing.

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