He is often criticized for being adrift.
Nonetheless, while Obama has never articulated strategic aims in the manner of Ronald Reagan or the two Bushes, it is not therefore true that there is no “Obama Doctrine.” Indeed, now that he has been in office five years, we can see an overarching common objective in otherwise baffling foreign-policy misadventures.
Collate the following: large defense cuts, the president’s suspicions that he is being gamed by the military, the pullout from the anti-missile defense pact in Eastern Europe, the pressure on Israel to give new concessions to its neighbors, the sudden warming up with an increasingly Islamist Turkey, the failed reset with Russia, radical nuclear-arms-reduction talks, the abject withdrawal of all U.S. peacekeeping forces in Iraq, the timetable withdrawals in Afghanistan, the new worries of our Asian and Middle Eastern allies, the constant euphemisms on the war on terror, the stepped-up drone attacks, the lead-from-behind removal of Moammar Qaddafi, the pullaway from Mubarak in Egypt, the support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the pink lines in Syria, the Iranian missile deal, the declaration that al-Qaeda was on the run and the war on terror essentially ending, the Benghazi coverup, and on and on.
Does such American behavior display any consistent strategic coherence?
I think it most certainly does.
The Obama administration believes that past administrations’ strategic objectives and the methods of achieving them not only were flawed, but led to the sort of world that is not in our interests as defined by the Obama team. The contemporary world landscape is an unfair place. “Have” nations exploit the “have-nots,” in large part because of the rigged postwar system of free-market commerce, alliances, and politics that the United States created. While it would be dangerous and indeed impossible to abruptly disown our responsibilities — we can still hunt down bin Laden, kill terrorists with drones, and jawbone rogue dictators — we can begin to withdraw our sponsorship from the mess that, in a variety of ways, we were responsible for.