On Sunday (March 27th) night, I had made up my mind to watch Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 classic Reservoir Dogs. As I plugged my MacBook Pro into the HDMI cable that runs under by bedroom to my television, something odd happened; my speakers and amplifier completed a previously broken circuit, and started working as a remarkably loud AM radio.
Of course what was coming over my speakers had to be Rush Limbaugh.
Rather than turning off the stereo or giving up, I decided to fix the problem earnestly. I also decided to leave Rush playing, using his irritating hate-mongering as a catalyst for me to work faster. Over the ten minutes that it took me to fix the mysterious radio problem, Rush was simultaneously mocking women, Barack Obama, Muslims, and “the liberal media”. Just another normal episode.
Believe it or not, though, Rush Limbaugh made a point somewhere during his long diatribe that is worth addressing here, albeit in a completely different way – what is The Obama Doctrine?
In the first year of the twentieth century, US President Teddy Roosevelt borrowed an old African proverb to describe his foreign affairs policy:
Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.
Teddy Roosevelt then went on to use his slogan to justify the forced “stabilization” of several territories in our hemisphere, generally sticking it to the (European) man, and “promoting democracy” wherever he felt like. This policy was really an extension of the Monroe Doctrine, the idea that the United States would not intervene with the European powers’ affairs so they as those European powers would not attempt additional colonization of the American hemisphere.
What reads on paper as a fair idea about mutual respect and some attempt to secure the future of America’s sovereignty became distorted over time. What does it mean that Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States of America, has used our military (even if in just a limited way) to protect another country’s citizens, even if the events of that country do not directly impact our national security? How has a president who ended the war in Iraq and pledged to withdraw from Afghanistan used military power in yet another country
The intermediary period between Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency and the present included involvement in two World Wars – with rather positive feedback from most of the international community – and some less than spectacular involvement in Iraq (twice), Korea (at least we got M*A*S*H out of it), Vietnam (the French warned us!), and Afghanistan (also sort of twice). All this foreign conflict in lands that may or may not have had a direct impact on American security has certainly put a toll on America, both financially and socially, but our global reputation has born the brunt of increasing scrutiny, both inside and outside our borders. Questions about the validity of America’s involvement are nothing new, sure, but didn’t Barack Obama run to try and change things?
All these questions have been making a mess of things for quite a while. In many regards, questions about the validity of America as an international player are questions about the future of nations at all. Is the decision of one nation more important than an assembly of nations just because that nation happens to have more firepower?
For the Obama Administration, these questions have been beating down the door since he took office. What is the future of America’s role internationally? Will we use our military to protect our interests, even if those interests do not threaten our security? For lack of a better question, what is the Obama Doctrine?
Yesterday (March 28) Barack Obama addressed the nation on national television to try and give us some answers. Here is the bit I feel is most important:
There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are… we should not be afraid to act – but the burden of action should not be America’s alone.
To me, this means we’ve dropped the quiet walking method and taken up a position as global sentinel. We’re like a burglar alarm; we might not actually be there ourselves to get the job done, but we’ll certainly do our best to scare away the potential invaders, even if they’re not trying to break in to our house.
Burglar alarms are certainly good and reasonable things, but does the United States have the authority – or, dare I say, the legitimacy – to act, even as the head of an international coalition? President Barack Obama seems to think so. What about you?