PROGRESSIVES AND DISORDER: The next two years may be the most dangerous since the Cold War ended.
As the calendar turns toward the final two years of the Obama Presidency, this is a moment to consider the world it has produced. There is no formal Obama Doctrine that serves as the 44th President’s blueprint for America’s engagement with the world. But it is fair to say that Barack Obama brought into office a set of ideas associated with the progressive, or left-leaning, wing of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment.
“Leading from behind” was the phrase coined in 2011 by an Obama foreign-policy adviser to describe the President’s approach to the insurrection in Libya against Moammar Gaddafi. That phrase may have since entered the lexicon of derision, but it was intended as a succinct description of the progressive approach to U.S. foreign policy.
The Democratic left believes that for decades the U.S. national-security presence in the world—simply, the American military—has been too large. Instead, when trouble emerges in the world, the U.S. should act only after it has engaged its enemies in attempts at detente, and only if it first wins the support and participation of allies and global institutions, such as NATO, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and so on.
In an interview this week with National Public Radio, Mr. Obama offered an apt description of the progressive foreign-policy vision. “When it comes to ISIL, us devoting another trillion dollars after having been involved in big occupations of countries that didn’t turn out all that well” is something he is hesitant to do.
Instead, he said, “We need to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding our schools, our roads, our basic science and research here in the United States; that is going to be a recipe for our long-term security and success.”
That $1 trillion figure is one of the President’s famous straw-man arguments. But what is the recipe if an ISIL or other global rogue doesn’t get his memo?
You cannot judge Obama’s success or failure without a clear understanding of his goals, and I’m not sure that either his conservative critics or his liberal defenders have that.