All about the Obama Doctrine

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by Zebra, Apr 17, 2016.

  1. Zebra

    Zebra Senior Member Senior Member

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    http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/all-about-the-obama-doctrine/article8481418.ece

    All about the Obama Doctrine


    April 16, 2016


    M.K. Narayanan

    The first decade and a half of the 21st century has witnessed a fundamental change in India-U.S. relations unparalleled in the history of the two democracies. President Bill Clinton demonstrated a tilt towards India during his second term, and subsequently the George Bush presidency brought about a transformational shift in the relationship. Relations have been on an upswing ever since, with the Obama presidency proceeding on the same course.

    Discerning observers nevertheless see subtle differences in the approach of the Bush and Obama presidencies. Both Presidents have been warm towards India and appreciative of India’s democratic credentials. President Bush, early in his second term, dispelled any notions that the decision to reach out to India had a hidden subtext, viz . strengthening India to function as a counterweight to China. President Barack Obama has been more circumspect, as his world view includes a more accommodative attitude towards China.

    The difference, according to strategic analysts, lies in their approach. Mr. Bush acted more on the basis of his instincts — an outstanding example being the manner in which he went out of his way to ensure the successful conclusion of the India-U.S. Civil Nuclear Deal without seeking any quid pro quo. Analysts argue that Mr. Obama is more a practitioner of realpolitik and tends to see most issues through this prism.

    Radical shift in priorities

    In the light of this, recent references to an “Obama Doctrine” should be of vital interest to Indian policymakers. The so-called doctrine is embedded in a series of interviews that Mr. Obama gave to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine. Compiled into an essay, it takes on the character of a doctrine, though the President himself may be chary of acknowledging it as such.

    Mr. Obama is hardly a “Beltway” politician. It was known even before he came to Washington that he held strong views on foreign policy issues. These differed from those of the foreign policy establishment in Washington — including of the powerful think tanks scattered across the city, and forming part of the “revolving door syndrome” familiar to Washington insiders.

    That the President, while still being in office, should express his personal opinions in this manner in a series of interviews intended for publication is a surprise of sorts. One would have expected it to form part of his presidential memoirs, but clearly he intended his views to become known while still holding office. Hence, its value and the reference to an “Obama Doctrine”.

    Mr. Obama withholds few punches in his interviews. He makes it amply clear that he has little regard for the Washington-based tribe of U.S. foreign policy experts (“The Washington playbook”), and even less for their enduring belief that military force is the answer to every problem. He evinces little interest in West Asian affairs and in the politics of oil unlike his predecessors. He is unduly harsh in his judgement of leaders of West Asian countries. On the other hand, he shows somewhat greater interest in the “Pivot to Asia” and the consequences of the rise of China and India in the region. All this signifies a radical shift in U.S. foreign policy priorities. It is uncertain whether policy circles in the U.S. have come to terms with the change.

    Forsaking old friends

    U.S. Presidents normally provide direction — or changes in direction — to U.S. foreign policy. The “black hole” and the Achilles heel of the pronouncements that coalesce into the Obama Doctrine is the near-total distrust or disdain that he displays for long-established relationships and allies. Added to this is a reluctance to accept his foreign policy mistakes, preferring to put the blame on allies and friends.

    Some of the harshest criticism is reserved for the leaders of Saudi Arabia with references to the West Asian sheikhdoms as “free-riders”. At the same time, he sees an emerging Iran as a bright patch as far as West Asia is concerned. Implicit in this is that the President is preparing to jettison Saudi Arabia — despite it having been the U.S.’s staunchest ally for the past half century — and readying to embrace Iran. Egypt, another long-term U.S. ally, is similarly seen as expendable.

    Among other leaders Mr. Obama is contemptuous of is Russia’s Vladimir Putin — perhaps understandable because of events in Ukraine and the West’s debacle in Crimea. What is more surprising are his views on the leaders of France and the United Kingdom — especially the latter. This possibly stems from his experience of the Libyan imbroglio, for which he blames French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. His pungent criticism of Mr. Cameron as a mere tactician lacking in strategic vision does sound the death knell for the “Special Relationship” that has been part of U.K.-U.S. entente since the end of the Second World War — unless it is resurrected by another President.

    Mr. Obama’s version of the Syrian “chemical weapon crisis” is disarming to say the least. Most of the world saw the U.S. “retreat” after having drawn a redline against use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as exposing the weakness of the U.S. The Saudis equated the U.S. action to “drawing lines on the sand” as Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud observed. Yet, Mr. Obama projects it as a moment of victory, in having avoided the use of excessive force to check Syria.

    The impression conveyed is of realpolitik carried to an extreme with the core logic of the Obama Doctrine being: that the U.S. no longer needed to engage in geopolitical competition with powers like Russia and China; the collapse of countries like Egypt was of little consequence to the U.S.; the primary concern was to avoid risking the lives of U.S. citizens unless the vital interests of the U.S. were directly involved; and to get others to do the hard work of fighting on issues relating to ensuring a rule-based international order and defeating terrorism.

    Unlike the vast majority of the U.S. establishment, Mr. Obama does believe that the U.S. confronts a security deficit or that U.S. credibility will be undermined unless there is greater investment in military power. On the other hand, he seems to believe that “faced with infinite demands and finite resources” to fulfil its leadership role, it is preferable to take recourse to the “long game” instead of embarking upon peremptory action: “Real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence”, “American strength abroad derives from its resilience at home.”

    Lessons for India

    From India’s standpoint, there are several aspects of concern relating to the Obama Doctrine. India may need to “deep dive” into what exactly the doctrine signifies, at a time when the U.S. is anxious to firmly establish a strategic hand clasp, to “counter China’s assertiveness in the South and East China Seas”.

    India has no conflict of interest as far as the South and East China Seas are concerned. It risks provoking China if it gets more deeply engaged on U.S. insistence. Under the Obama Doctrine, the U.S. cannot be expected to come to India’s aid in the event of an India-China conflict along the disputed land border or anywhere else.

    We can already discern how the doctrine is being played out to India’s north-west. The U.S. has been willing to sell F-16 fighters and attack helicopters to Pakistan, so that Pakistan can fight its battles in Afghanistan and the region — despite India’s concerns about this move. The U.S. has also been willing to placate Pakistan on the nuclear issue, even implying that Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons programme was possibly a response to India’s Cold Start doctrine.

    U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, during his recent visit, spoke of the strategic confluence between India and the U.S. as one of the defining moments of the 21st century. He also referred to the new Framework for the India-U.S. Defence Relationship (signed in June 2015) as intended to increase strategic cooperation to help safeguard security and stability across the region and around the world.

    In the light of the Obama Doctrine, it might, hence, be worthwhile to take a closer look at such entanglement with the U.S. India must be careful that its approach to China is not conducted through the prism of U.S. strategic interests. We need an independent policy in keeping with our national interests in the region and beyond.

    M.K. Narayanan is a former National Security Adviser and former Governor of West Bengal
     
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  3. Zebra

    Zebra Senior Member Senior Member

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  4. Chaffers

    Chaffers Regular Member

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    How does the author see India's relationship with America progressing as China implements it's one belt one road strategy?
     
  5. Indx TechStyle

    Indx TechStyle Perfaarmance Naarmal Senior Member

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    Both America and China are two ping pong balls which we are juggling
    :D:playball:(we have nice relations with China also except border dispute).
    India must use both sides till it itself becomes mature itself.
     
  6. Chaffers

    Chaffers Regular Member

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    :):) And Russia of course.. Quite a bit of juggling to do!

    Has Modi given any indication of the likely path that India wishes to take? Military cooperation ties with the US, considering infrastructural and economic ties with China, hardware from Russia... Which ball is the most important?
     
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  7. Indx TechStyle

    Indx TechStyle Perfaarmance Naarmal Senior Member

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    We will use all of three paths till we get in same league as that US, Russia or China in 2-3 decades.
    India will catch up meanwhile Russia will decline.
     
  8. Ancient Indian

    Ancient Indian Unplugged Version Senior Member

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    What makes you think that Russia will fall and Rest of Europe will survive?

    Brexit is painful reality. Europe will stand as long as they stay in that joint family.

    And Russia. . . .
     
  9. Indx TechStyle

    Indx TechStyle Perfaarmance Naarmal Senior Member

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    I didn't said anything about Europe.
    BTW, after Brexit, more exits gonna occur.
    EU too will be dysfunctional or dissolved in coming decades.
    Here's Global Economic output projected for 2050.
    For Nominal GDP:
    IMG_20160707_120524.JPG
    For GDP in PPP:
    IMG_20160707_120422.JPG
     
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  10. Ancient Indian

    Ancient Indian Unplugged Version Senior Member

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    Russia will definitely stay in top 5.

    GDP is not that much important. Once people start earning profits, all figures will change.

    Western propaganda is hurting Russia more than the real cause.
    Despite labelled as lone ranger, it is still in top list.
     
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  11. Indx TechStyle

    Indx TechStyle Perfaarmance Naarmal Senior Member

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    Russia already out of top 5 economically.
    Question isn't for propaganda.
    It's of their declining population and economy.
    They were undoubtedly superpower at a time with fifth largest economy and 3rd largest population so capable of pouring enough money and manpower for technical advances.
    Without economy, they can't stand so long.
     

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