Obama Doctrine: Legacy or fallacy?

Obama Doctrine: Legacy or fallacy?

In his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him in December 2009, President Barack Obama said: “I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations — that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

“And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. (Laughter.) In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage.

“But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.

“Still, we are at war, and I’m responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”


Reading between the lines, Obama seemed to be uncomfortable – and hesitant – of his new role as the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful country in the history of mankind. As one who manifested a “peacenik” orientation during his college days at Columbia University in the early 1980s, he found his new role as the leader of the free world to be totally in conflict with what he was perceived to believe in: pacifism.

It did not then come as surprise when Obama decided to withdraw all American forces including “boots on the ground,” from Iraq at the end of 2011. And his only reason why he did so was because he made a promise during the 2008 presidential campaign that he would withdraw American troops from Iraq.

Obama ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq when the Iraqi military was hardly a fighting force. When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rebels crossed the border from Syria and attacked Mosul in 2014, the city fell in four days of fighting when Iraqi soldiers threw down their guns and stripped off their uniforms as the ISIS rebels entered the city. The same scenario was repeated through all the towns and villages that ISIS attacked.

After several months of merciless assault by ISIS against the helpless Iraqis, Obama ordered air strikes against the rebels. However, he refused to send “boots on the ground” to help the Iraqis defend their territory. Many military experts opined that the war couldn’t be won without “boots on the ground.”
And this turned out to be another Obama miscalculation. There is a proverb that says: “If there is a gap, something will fill it.” And true enough; the vacuum that America left in Iraq was filled by Iranian troops fighting side by side with the Iraqis against ISIS. Now, does anybody expect the Iranians to leave Iraq when ISIS is driven out of Iraq? Let me guess. Hell, no!

Putin and World War III

But what’s happening in Iraq is just a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the globe vis-à-vis America’s role as the only superpower that maintains order in the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. It was the dawn of Pax Americana or American Peace.

But Pax Americana is being shattered by the civil war in Ukraine. Indeed, what’s going on in Ukraine could be a precursor to World War III. Right now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is making a lot of noise, threatening to use nuclear missiles against members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) if they interfered with the unrest in Ukraine.

The question is: Is Putin going to use nuclear weapons if World War III erupted? While it might seem that there is some sanity to Putin’s mental state, he might start World War III with conventional weapons. However, should NATO or the United States win a conventional war with Russia, Putin is expected to resort to a “First-Strike” nuclear attack on the U.S. But in today’s nuclear technology, neither America or Russia could succeed in a “First-Strike” attack against each other because it would be almost impossible to seek and destroy the ballistic missile nuclear submarines that are moving stealthily in the high seas, ready to launch their missiles against pre-determined targets. It’s interesting to note that more than half of the U.S.’s nuclear ballistic missiles are launched from “boomers” as the nuclear submarines are called. Although Russia has a lot fewer “boomers” than the U.S., she has enough to cause enumerable nuclear damage to America. In other words, World War III could lead to MAD; that is, Mutually Assured Destruction.

Vision of peace

And it is because of this that Obama is known to be a strong supporter of nuclear disarmament. While at Columbia University, which was the breeding ground for the anti-war movement, Obama wrote an op-ed, “Breaking the War Mentality,” in a campus newsmagazine, Sundial, about his vision of a “nuclear free world.”
It was this “vision” that had provided a backdrop for Obama’s foreign policy upon his election in 2008. It was no wonder then that his foreign policy, known as “Obama Doctrine” is guided by the use of diplomacy to accomplish peaceful resolutions to world problems. He believes that there are no military solutions to every problem in the 21st century. But then, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had asked Gen. Colin Powell during the Clinton years, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Touché.

It did not then come as a surprise that Obama has consistently refused to send lethal and defensive weapons to Ukraine. He believes that arming Ukraine would infuriate Putin who had threatened to send arms and Russian troops to Ukraine. But Putin is already doing that; there are Russian troops and heavy weaponry in Ukraine right now. Yet, Obama has turned a blind eye to the Russian “invasion.”

Arms race

And while Obama is trying to decrease U.S. troop strength and military assets, Russia and China have been increasing their military budgets to overcome America’s military superiority. Indeed, Russia now has more nuclear warheads than the U.S. while China’s growing naval power in the South China Sea is pushing America’s naval presence outside the First Island Chain, which runs from Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, and Vietnam. In addition, China is building at least five artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, which is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. Once these artificial islands are completed and used for naval and air force bases, China would have — for the first time — military bases outside Chinese territory. Yes, it won’t be long before the South China Sea becomes China’s Lake Beijing.

While America’s military brass is aware of what’s happening in Iraq, Ukraine, and the South China Sea, there is not much they can do to convince Obama to use a different tact in dealing with foreign policy and geopolitical matters. Simply put, accommodating – and appeasing – Russia, China, and Iran would only diminish America’s international image and military primacy. It would be the end of the unipolar world of Pax Americana and the advent of a multipolar world order that would divide the world into spheres of influence among the U.S., Russia, China, and Iran.

Surmise it to say, the Obama Doctrine may have contributed to the creation of this multipolar world order, which begs the question: Is Obama Doctrine a legacy or a fallacy?