I have written several articles on postings related to politics. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on these political events.
Kerry declares the end of the Monroe Doctrine era
Secretary of State John Kerry declared that a nearly 200-year-old policy which had governed Washington’s relations with Latin America was finally dead.
Known as the Monroe Doctrine after it was adopted in 1823 by former U.S. president James Monroe, the policy had stated that any efforts by European countries to colonize land in North or South America would be viewed as aggressive acts and could require U.S. intervention.
“The doctrine that bears (Monroe’s) name asserted our authority to step in and oppose the influence of European powers in Latin America,” Kerry told an audience at the Organization of American States.
“And throughout our nation’s history, successive presidents have reinforced that doctrine and made a similar choice.
“Today, however, we have made a different choice. The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over,” he insisted to applause.
“The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states. It’s about all of our countries viewing one another as equals, sharing responsibilities, cooperating on security issues and adhering not to doctrine but to the decisions that we make as partners to advance the values and the interests that we share.”
Kerry had been roundly criticized earlier this year when he told U.S. lawmakers that “the western hemisphere is our backyard” in comments that triggered anger from some Latin American leaders.
Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled the U.S. aid agency USAID following the speech, and denounced the U.S., which he said “probably thinks that here it can still manipulate politically and economically. That is a thing of the past.”
Kerry seemed to agree Monday, saying: “Many years ago the United States dictated a policy that defined the hemisphere for many years after.”
“We’ve moved past that era, and today we must go even further…It will require courage and a willingness to change, but above all, it will require a higher and deeper level of cooperation between us, all of us together as equal partners in this hemisphere.”
The Monroe Doctrine may be dead in Latin America, but its ghost still haunts the White House
The unfolding drama in Venezuela shows that former U.S secretary of state John Kerry was right when he formally retired the Monroe Doctrine in 2013 in a speech at the Organization of American States. Originally intended as a warning against European powers seeking influence in Latin America, this 19th-century doctrine became virtually synonymous with United States unilateral intervention in the region.
For decades, Washington treated Latin America and the Caribbean as its backyard, invading a host of countries and supporting coups against unfriendly governments throughout the hemisphere. By the time of Mr. Kerry’s speech, however, the doctrine had been rendered obsolete by changes in Latin America, the United States and the world.
And yet, the discourse of part of the media, pundits and policymakers in the U.S. regarding the Venezuelan crisis seems to revive that bygone era of unilateral interventionism in Latin America. In the last few days, domestic and international factors have dramatically increased pressure on Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chavez after the Bolivarian leader’s death in 2013 and has presided over the utter ruin of the oil-rich nation.
The United States has an opportunity to play a constructive role in fostering a peaceful, democratic transition in Venezuela. It can only do so, however, if Washington resists the temptation of acting alone and behaves as part of a broad coalition with other Latin American countries. The good news is many governments in the region have joined the U.S. in condemning Mr. Maduro and recognizing Juan Guaido –opposition leader and president of the democratically elected National Assembly – as interim president on Jan. 23.
The Lima Group, created in 2017 to address the Venezuela crisis and comprised of some 14 countries in the hemisphere – including Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Chile – has been key in isolating Mr. Maduro internationally. On Jan. 4, the bloc urged the dictator not to take the presidential oath for a second term on Jan. 10 and instead cede power to the opposition-controlled National Assembly until free and fair elections could be held. To be sure, the unprecedented exodus of Venezuelan migrants and refugees to many countries in the region – the United Nations estimates are over 3 million people – helped increase pressure on governments to adopt a stronger position.
In addition, the Organization of American States, and particularly its Secretary-General, former Uruguayan diplomat Luis Almagro, has been forceful in its condemnation of the Maduro regime and its call for restoring democratic rule in Venezuela. Mr. Almagro’s outspoken stance, along with Lima Group demands, has buttressed the Trump administration’s argument and justified sanctions and other punitive measures. The OAS’s Human Rights Commission and its careful documentation of widespread abuses also helps make the U.S. case against Mr. Maduro. Latin America’s important efforts have given the US administration a chance to reaffirm core American values.
There are, of course, reasons to be concerned that the impulses for unilateral intervention have not been extinguished. Back in 2017, to the surprise of his closest foreign-policy advisers, President Trump referred to a possible “military option” in Venezuela. Months later, then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson defended the Monroe Doctrine as a successful foreign-policy approach, ignoring its negative image in Latin America.
To be sure, though a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela is highly improbable, influential players such as National Security Advisor John Bolton and Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio continue to mention it, perhaps as a way of posturing and escalating pressure on Mr. Maduro. Mr. Bolton’s close association with the disastrous U.S.-led Iraq war and his past statements supporting regime change in Iran do not inspire confidence in restraint.
The risk is that maintaining the possibility of a U.S. armed intervention in Venezuela, with echoes of the Monroe Doctrine, could undermine the Latin American coalition that has been forged and today holds promise of success. It could also splinter the Lima Group itself into more hardline and moderate governments, which would weaken unity and diminish the bloc’s effectiveness.
This is a critical moment in the Venezuela crisis – hopeful yet uncertain. Moving forward, senior Trump administration officials would be wise to devote more time with their Latin American counterparts, issuing joint statements and co-ordinating actions to pressure the regime and advance Mr. Guaido’s efforts at reconciliation. Posturing about the U.S.’s power and influence in Venezuela evokes a 19th century doctrine that has long been irrelevant and is counterproductive.
If the initiative of the Lima Group, the OAS and the United States working together ends up contributing to the restoration of democratic governance in Venezuela, that could well be the start of a more constructive U.S.-Latin American relationship.
Obama nearly killed the Monroe Doctrine and Trump should revive it
Like his predecessor, President Barack Obama faced geopolitical challenges, such as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a reemerging Russian aggression, and Chinese provocation in Southeast Asia. But, unlike those before him, he failed to lead in our hemisphere, and where he did engage, his efforts were ill-conceived.
For two centuries, since President James Monroe’s caution to the European powers, America has offered the Western Hemisphere a beacon of hope and reminder of independence. President Monroe’s enduring Monroe Doctrine has served for successive presidents as the building block of our foreign policy, insisting upon resistance to hostile, intrusive actions in the Western Hemisphere, thus preserving order and democracy in our half of the globe.
Nearly two centuries after its introduction, the Monroe Doctrine was at the heart of democratic governance during the Cold War. President Ronald Reagan’s confrontation of the Communists in Central America and Grenada, as well as his Caribbean Basin Initiative, were unilateral demonstrations of America’s support for the Hemisphere and a response to rising Communist influence. Ultimately, Reagan’s policies ushered in one of the great waves of democracy in Latin America during the 1980’s.
In the subsequent post-Cold War era, America turned her attention to boosting economic opportunities in the hemisphere, starting with President Bill Clinton successfully hosting the first Summit of the Americas in 27 years, which was also the first located in the United States. This was the culmination of a multi-year effort to tear down barriers to American exports to the region from Mexico to Argentina. The actions by both Reagan and Clinton enhanced American prestige in the region.
Prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush had begun efforts focusing on Latin America, with Mexico as the destination of his first foreign visit as president. Despite having many global priorities, President Bush enhanced economic growth and security in the Western Hemisphere by opening up Colombia to greater U.S. exports and contributing to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s historic defeat of the FARC and diminishment of narcoterrorism.
Like his predecessor, President Barack Obama faced geopolitical challenges, such as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a reemerging Russian aggression, and Chinese provocation in Southeast Asia. But, unlike those before him, he failed to lead in our hemisphere, and where he did engage, his efforts were ill-conceived.
As his attention was drawn from our neighborhood to those elsewhere, Obama saw to the diminishment of the robust Monroe Doctrine, culminating in then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2013 declaration that the Monroe Doctrine was dead. Reflection on the Obama Administration’s hand-holding of Bolivian, Venezuelan and, of course, Cuban dictators offers no better evidence.
The Obama Administration seldom engaged with governments of the Western Hemisphere to offer guidance and assistance as they struggled to isolate and address their internal challenges. Instead, the Obama Administration offered policies like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which only encouraged tens of thousands of people to flee their home countries and seek asylum in the United States, rather than supporting these same nations’ efforts to strengthen their social, economic and security landscapes, which would’ve incentivized their citizens to stay.
In 2009, when Obama extended his hand to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, despite deteriorating human rights and democratic conditions, as well as the government’s lack of cooperation on antidrug and counterterrorism efforts, he was attempting to create some form of a truce. But, this misguided attempt ultimately ended in the administration’s realization of the failure that accompanies doing business with a despot. Eight years later, Venezuela is a bankrupt regime with its citizens fleeing its borders.
Obama’s 2014 reset of relations with Cuba was praised and heralded by the left (and even by some on the right), but upon further consideration, other than exotic vacations for the wealthy, what have these past two years delivered? Churches in Cuba are being bulldozed, and the human rights violations continue to mount. The longer Obama’s policies continue in Cuba, the more we fill the regime’s coffers, pushing Cuba further into dictatorial rule. The fact remains that Cuba is a one-party dictatorship and family dynasty, and the Obama Administration’s softening of America’s stance towards this oppressive regime did not empower the citizens, thereby encouraging democracy; it empowered only its evil dictators.
Under Obama’s watchful eye, the United States of America systematically turned her back on the oppressed in our own backyard, indulging the whims of dictators, terrorists, and criminals while ceding to despots and would-be-kings the moral high ground we are obligated to defend. The outcome of the Obama Administration’s failed forays is our enemies’ expansion into the gaps created by the absence of a partner like the United States to help defend and protect democracy and independence. Such is the case in the Western Hemisphere, where meaningful engagement evaporated virtually from the first day of the Obama Administration.
Our new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faces many challenges across the globe. Secretary Tillerson and President Donald Trump should assess the hemisphere and design an engagement plan that promotes economic growth, defeats authoritarianism with free and fair elections, and conquers international drug cartels and global terrorists. The Monroe Doctrine remains an American foreign policy principle. Use it.
What is the Monroe Doctrine? John Bolton’s justification for Trump’s push against Maduro
White House national security adviser John Bolton was detailing the U.S. government’s hard line against the government of “dictator” Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela on Sunday morning when CNN’s Jake Tapper posed a tough question: How can President Trump oppose Maduro when he has close ties to authoritarian governments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates?
Bolton’s response was simple: The situation is different because Venezuela is in the Western Hemisphere.
“In this administration, we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine,’ ” Bolton said. “This is a country in our hemisphere; it’s been the objective of presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely democratic hemisphere.”
Bolton was explaining why Trump may be happy to have dialogue with dictators — notably, the U.S. president met with the leader of one of the world’s most repressive governments, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, last week — but is seeking the ouster of Venezuela’s Maduro.
The Trump administration is part of a broad coalition of countries in the Western Hemisphere that stand against Venezuela’s Maduro and recognize National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as interim president.
However, the use of “Monroe Doctrine” will stir unhappy memories in Latin America, where the words have uncomfortable connotations of U.S. interventionism. Bolton’s comments are a reminder that the definition of the doctrine has morphed substantially since it was first outlined in a December 1823 speech by President James Monroe.
“When U.S. officials use phrases like the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ and ‘our hemisphere,’ it unnecessarily puts off Latin Americans, including allies that we are seeking to help,” said Jay Sexton, author of the book “The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth-Century America” and a historian at the University of Missouri. “One wonders if Bolton’s primary audience are actually Trump supporters at home who are drawn toward this kind of flag-hugging nationalist chauvinism.”
Maduro’s few remaining international allies quickly highlighted the use of the words. In Doha, Qatar, on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the use of the term was “insulting” to Latin America.
“I believe that Latin American states will react to John Bolton’s statement. He mentioned that the Monroe Doctrine could be used in Venezuela, which insults all of Latin America,” Lavrov said.
In a tweet Monday, Cuba’s minister of foreign affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, said Bolton was lying when he spoke of Cuban military support for Venezuela. “One truth accompanies him: He confessed to the application of Monroe Doctrine,” the diplomat wrote, using the hashtag #HandsOffVenezuela.
“Imperial arrogance at its most dangerous and fanatic,” wrote Guillaume Long, a former foreign minister of Ecuador under the left-wing government of Rafael Correa.
The doctrine Bolton cited Sunday dates back almost 200 years: Based on an annual message delivered to Congress by Monroe, the original idea outlined the United States’ opposition to European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere in return for Washington’s staying out of European affairs.
Initially, this concept was mostly rhetorical and rarely enforced. However, successive governments have reinvented and reinterpreted the idea many times over the years since that original address. Bolton’s reference may refer more specifically to a tweak added by President Theodore Roosevelt, dubbed the Roosevelt Corollary, after a crisis in Santo Domingo in 1904. He argued that the United States was justified in exercising “international police power” when there was unrest in Latin America.
Grace Livingstone, a Latin America specialist at the University of Cambridge and author of the book, “America’s Backyard: The United States and Latin America from the Monroe Doctrine to the War on Terror,” said the doctrine “was essentially a defensive, isolationist statement” at the time of Monroe’s initial speech, but that it changed in the 20th century.
“Certainly, Latin American governments and peoples historically have seen the Monroe Doctrine as an excuse for U.S. intervention in their countries,” said Livingstone.
During the Cold War, the Monroe Doctrine was a justification for intervention in Latin America — usually against left-wing governments and sometimes with force. Some more recent American leaders distanced themselves from mention of the doctrine.
“The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over. The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states,” then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in a speech at the Organization of American States in 2013. Under the Obama administration, he added, the United States saw its Latin American neighbors as equals.
But that Obama-era policy has been undone during the Trump administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, have referred to the Monroe Doctrine when speaking about the Trump administration’s policy in Latin America, as did then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. “We believe the Monroe Doctrine thematically is still the right thing,” Mattis said ahead of a trip to Brazil in 2018.
But mentioning the doctrine may be counterproductive to U.S. aims in Latin America. “The Trump administration’s clumsy intervention in Venezuela also risks backfiring by making Maduro appear a martyr and a victim of the United States,” Livingstone said. “It could also be damaging to Guaidó to be too associated with U.S. intervention.”
“Taking the long view, there is nothing new in a U.S. statesman invoking the Monroe Doctrine to achieve domestic political objectives,” Sexton said. “Indeed, U.S. politicians more often have invoked the Monroe Doctrine against each other than they have toward foreign governments. Domestic politics have never stopped at water’s edge.”
Joe Biden and the decline of American power
The first public meeting since Joe Biden’s election between US and Chinese diplomats in Anchorage this week didn’t end well. The trade and political tensions that escalated under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump are set to continue.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken made plain the US position: “We will… discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber-attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies… Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”
In many ways, Biden is Mr Continuity, despite all the hype during his inauguration that the grownups were returning to the White House
In response, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi hit back: “The United States uses its military force and financial hegemony to carry out long-arm jurisdiction and suppress other countries. It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China.”
Biden’s election was supposed to mark an end to the rogue presidency of Donald Trump, who left office after rallying his supporters to storm the Capitol building after refusing to accept he lost the election. But in many ways, Biden is Mr Continuity, despite all the hype during his inauguration that the grown-ups were returning to the White House.
It took newly elected Biden a little over a month before he authorised military strikes on Syria, apparently in response to rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq. A week later, Vice President Kamala Harris publicly declared opposition to a recently announced International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The United States under Trump more than ever used its power nakedly to bully friends and enemies alike, and to rip up international treaties signed by predecessors, such as the Iran nuclear deal. But it is a profound misreading of history to expect Biden to turn his back on most of America’s imperial behaviour.
New language, same policy
Whether it’s the Middle East, Russia, Iran or China, the new administration is changing the language (out goes the “China virus”) while keeping the substance. Last month, Blinken said Trump “was right in taking a tougher approach to China”, while commerce secretary Gina Raimondo has said she will continue the Trump policy of using the “full toolkit at my disposal… to protect America and our networks from Chinese interference”.
Economist Jeffrey Sachs describes US exceptionalism – established 200 years ago with the Monroe Doctrine, but actually as old as the first colonial settlement in America – as a “civic religion”, which sees the US having a “destiny and duty to expand its power and the influence of its institutions and beliefs until they dominate the world”.
Dwight Eisenhower, who left the role in 1961, was the last US president to seriously question the pursuit of military supremacy and intolerance of other ideologies and political systems that has governed US foreign policy since 1945 when President Truman dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“We must be careful to ensure that the ‘merchants of death’ do not come to dictate policy,” Eisenhower warned at the end of his time as president.
Biden is no Eisenhower (who still authorised the overthrow of democratic governments in Iran and Guatemala). His support for Israeli colonialism is no less unconditional than Trump’s, even if his officials make weak noises about a long-dead two-state solution. US military aid to dictators like Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi continues, despite massive human rights abuses carried out by his regime.
In the wider Middle East and beyond it, the US finds itself at odds with too many international agreements and institutions to list – from arms control, to human rights, to climate and health, exemplified by Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organisation just as the Covid-19 pandemic required global cooperation like never before.
The US, like Russia, China and Israel, is one of the few countries that is not a signatory to the ICC. Trump even imposed sanctions on the court’s officials.
Washington’s ever-growing regime of sanctions against countries that defy its will today includes Iran, Venezuela, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Cuba – imposing immense suffering on their peoples while failing to dislodge any regime.
Yet, as Michael Pembroke outlines in America in Retreat, his new book on the “Decline of US Leadership from World War 2 to Covid-19”, US power is increasingly impotent in the face of global forces that it cannot control, most obviously China’s inexorable economic rise. Pembroke shows how the tectonic forces of economic integration and trade from China to South and East Asia, Africa and the Middle East are remorselessly replacing the US as the dominant economic world power.
The drone and the dollar
What the US still boasts is its unmatched military might, at enormous cost to the American people and millions around the world, with 800 military bases spanning all corners of the globe.
This is underpinned by the dollar – still used as the world’s favoured reserve currency.
The power that control of the international trading currency confers enables the US to impose its will on much of the global financial system, while also building up debt to pay for its trillion-dollar annual military budget. The rest of the world picks up the tab by buying US Treasury bonds.
Members of the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are increasingly trading in local currencies and reducing dollar dependency
This system has so far suited the likes of China, which benefits from America’s trade deficit. But for how long? Trump tried to reverse the US loss of industrial leadership to China through tariffs on Chinese goods, but that policy may have other consequences that accelerate the shift in global power away from Washington.
The United States’ growing use of secondary sanctions to impose its will on countries that wish to trade with US-sanctioned states is one of many abuses of its financial power that is pushing the world toward alternatives. China and Russia have already initiated several measures like cross-border inter-bank payment systems parallel to the SWIFT system, while reducing their holdings of US treasuries.
Members of the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are increasingly trading in local currencies and reducing dollar dependency.
Pembroke, a former Australian judge, provides a useful historical survey of America’s journey from architect of the global order at the end of World War Two towards a rogue imperial power that increasingly defies or decouples itself from all legal constraints to its actions. Along the way it has invaded and destabilised dozens of countries, from Iran, to Central America, Indochina and Iraq.
Today it would be hard to imagine the kind of retreat from global empire that happened to the likes of Britain and France in the 20th century. But it’s worth recalling that the greatest reach of the British Empire came in 1921, in the immediate aftermath of the First World War as it seized new territories in the Middle East. And yet, within three to four decades, that empire had crumbled.
The US is pivoting to Asia in the tried and tested strategy of using its military and technological reach to impede China’s rise. It worked with the Soviets, why not with China too? The zero-sum approach to global politics sees everything as a nail. But the hammer is not so useful when China brings development and soft loans to extend its influence and reach.
China is an authoritarian regime, but it is not a stagnant, militarily overstretched superpower like the Soviet Union in the 1980s. That description better suits the US – a country where Texans freeze to death when the privatised power system fails, and more than half a million died from Covid-19.
Yet consigning the US empire to the dustbin of history is not a done deal. The American and Chinese models of government and global power now confront each other as never before. Few predicted the fall of the Soviet imperium, which came even as America recovered from the Vietnam debacle and analysts feared its eclipse by Japan.
Pembroke dedicates his book to the Millennials, perhaps in the unspoken recognition that the old and middle aged leaders of America are not yet ready to relinquish the destructive exceptionalism that is the core faith of the US empire. Perhaps future leaders might return to the warnings of Eisenhower and change course, but we shouldn’t hold our breath.
The never-ending, ever-frustrating hunt for the ‘Biden doctrine’
For decades, Washington has been searching for Joe Biden’s foreign policy vision. But why?
New York magazine declared: “We’re still waiting for a Biden doctrine.”
The esteemed journalists at that publication must have missed the August 2016 story in The Atlantic that laid out four components of then-Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy views (and was headlined, conveniently, “The Biden Doctrine”). They also must have missed the October 2012 essay on Biden’s views in Foreign Policy (also conveniently headlined “The Biden Doctrine”).
In all fairness, it’s not just New York magazine that’s searching for this ever-elusive, unless it’s-totally-right-there, except what-does-it-really-even-mean and does-it-even-matter Biden doctrine. Just Google “Biden doctrine” and you’ll find half the Washington establishment struggling to define it.
This news organization is no exception. When POLITICO’s Playbook team recently published a newsletter titled “The Biden Doctrine,” among those surprised was this reporter, whose first thought was: “Wait. What? They figured it out?”
Biden has been president for less than five months. And yet, as he prepares to go on his first presidential overseas trip — to Europe later this week — the race to understand his doctrine looks ready to kick into a higher gear.
It seems fair to ask, then: Why is it necessary to define a president’s foreign policy “doctrine” at all? Isn’t dealing with some 200 countries, not to mention transnational threats like climate change and terrorism, complicated enough to defy easy summarization? Why do pundits try so hard to impose order on the messy reality of governing?
“I don’t know, honestly,” said Michael Singh, a Middle East specialist who served in former President George W. Bush’s National Security Council. “Maybe we’re trying to make sense of the chaotic world around us? Maybe there’s an existential need for this?”
Maybe. Doctrine-hunting amounts to a full-time employment program for the community of foreign policy watchers in and around Washington. Analysts and historians have long sought to divine and distill presidents’ guiding principles of foreign policy into their pithy, memorable essence.
Credit for the doctrine craze usually goes to former President James Monroe, who declared in 1823 that Europe should stop trying to colonize countries in the Western Hemisphere — leaving them more open for U.S. influence and trade. Many years later, former President Harry S. Truman’s doctrine proclaimed that the U.S. would devote resources to fending off communism and other authoritarian forces around the globe.
Former President Richard Nixon’s doctrine called for the fight against communism in Asia to be led primarily by Indigenous forces, not U.S. troops. George W. Bush’s doctrine is said to have evolved from waging preemptive war against U.S. enemies to promoting democracy around the world. Former President Donald Trump’s doctrine, meanwhile, revolved around an “America first” philosophy that shunned even some U.S. allies.
Sometimes there are lingering debates as to whether a president really had a doctrine; such was the case with former President Bill Clinton.
Former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy views were supposedly summed up in a massive April 2016 story in The Atlantic headlined, you guessed it, “The Obama Doctrine.”
Based on the article, you could say the former president’s doctrine was a complex set of views on everything from the prudent use of military force to the need to step back from the Middle East to the virtue of reminding allies to carry their fair share of the global burden. You also could say it came down to Obama’s infamous private comment: “Don’t do stupid shit.”
Reading the literature on presidential doctrines risks being bewildered by how to even define “doctrine.” Is it a policy, an agenda, a goal, or a principle? Is it a strategy or a philosophy? A theory? Must it be captured in a simple slogan? Or does it require lists and charts and bullet points? Is a president allowed to have more than one doctrine?
“The doctrine conversation gives the veneer of intellectual heft to a conversation among what are mostly just bullshitters aiming to make it in the pages of history or at least the op-eds,” said John Gans, a foreign policy analyst who has written a history of the National Security Council.
Often, world leaders are simply reacting to the demands of the moment, and making it up as they go along. Supposedly, when asked what shaped his government’s actions, Harold Macmillan, the prime minister who led Britain during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, is said to have responded, “Events, dear boy, events.”
The quest to define the Biden doctrine — a charge led by think tankers, academics and journalists with a love for punchy headlines — is unusually complicated because Biden has been in the public eye for so long. For many of those nearly 50 years, he’s been a major player on foreign policy, including as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That’s led people to ascribe doctrines to him even when he wasn’t president.
But his foreign policy views — or doctrines credited to him — have never been entirely static, in part because America’s relations with other countries are constantly shifting. Take China: When Biden first entered the Senate, in 1973, the United States was pursuing a normal diplomatic relationship with Beijing; today, U.S. relations with China seem headed for confrontation.
One database search tracked the term “Biden doctrine” as far back as a June 2001 Salon article. In that case, though, the writer — Jake Tapper, now a CNN host — used the term to sum up Biden’s explanation of why he didn’t hammer George W. Bush for a gaffe on Taiwan. (So presumably it was a doctrine of restraint?)
In the years since, the “Biden doctrine” has been used to describe his views on both macro and micro matters.
According to The Jerusalem Post, for instance, Biden described his doctrine to a Zionist Organization of America event in 2001 as allowing Israel to decide its own fate without outside interference. Nearly a decade later, the ZOA declared that Biden had violated his doctrine when he publicly criticized Israel for its plans to build settlements in areas claimed by Palestinians.
In 2007, when he was running for president, Biden, in response to a debate question, described his doctrine as: “Clarity,” and “Prevention, not preemption,” a dig at outgoing President Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Conservative commentators have been among those most eager to define the Biden doctrine. An October 2008 Washington Times op-ed, helpfully titled “The Biden Doctrine,” described it as “gut the military, appease aggressors, and then pray anxiously for lightning to preserve world peace!”
Roughly three months ago, a different (and somewhat more generous) commentator in The Washington Times argued that China is increasingly threatening Taiwan’s democracy but that “a Biden doctrine on China has yet to be articulated.”
That runs counter to foreign policy analyst Thomas Wright’s belief that the Biden doctrine already is coming into focus and that China has a lot to do with it. The way Wright sees it, Biden’s guiding light is the idea that America and its allies must strengthen and defend democracy, especially against Chinese-style authoritarianism.
“I don’t think you need a doctrine, but if the president has something that is a driving principle behind their actions, that’s significant,” Wright said.
In a weekend op-ed in The Washington Post, Biden provided some evidence for Wright’s perspective, framing his trip to Europe as being “about realizing America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners, and demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age.”
Traditionally, the doctrine debate has been about foreign — not domestic — policy, but Biden is complicating that framing.
During his 2020 presidential run and since taking office, he and his aides have said that they don’t see much difference between the two spheres anymore. The Biden administration is pushing the idea that strengthening America domestically — its infrastructure and its middle class, for one — is part and parcel of its foreign policy.
That, however, raises the question of whether it’s possible to do everything Biden wants to do. Hence the piece “Biden’s Everything Doctrine” in Foreign Affairs, which suggested that Biden will eventually have to pick and choose.
So what exactly is the Biden doctrine? If we don’t know already, will we ever know? Will we ever agree?
You’d think that you could find a clue in Wikipedia. But the forces behind the online encyclopedia are perhaps a bit wiser than many in the Washington intellectual set.
As of this writing, the Biden section of the Wikipedia entry on “United States presidential doctrines” remains empty.
Unfortunately it appears that Biden owes too many countries due to his years of graft and living on the dole. He has been in the pocket of China ever since he was the VP in the Obama presidency and his son Hunter is in the pocket of Ukraine. This is one of the reasons that term limits need to be inacted. The longer a person is in politics the more beholden he/she becomes to their supporters or lobbyists and the less reponsive they are to their constiuency. It is also apparent that Biden does not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the constant onlsaught by China in regards to our position as the sole super power. If we can’t protect our neighborhood how can we be expected to watch over the rest of the planet? There is an old saying “give an inch and they will take a mile.” Communist countries like Russia, China and North Korea only repect strength. Contries controoled by radical muslims fall in this same category. President James Monrone was a wise man, maybe we should follow his vision and doctrine. They have not lead us wrong so far.
washingtonpost.com, “What is the Monroe Doctrine? John Bolton’s justification for Trump’s push against Maduro.” By Adam Taylor; america.aljazeera.com, “Kerry declares the end of the Monroe Doctrine era: Kerry makes announcement to Organization of American States, says states in Western hemisphere must be equals.”; theglobeandmail.com, “The Monroe Doctrine may be dead in Latin America, but its ghost still haunts the White House.” by MICHAEL SHIFTER; dallasnews.com, “Obama nearly killed the Monroe Doctrine and Trump should revive it.” By French Hill; middleeasteye.net, “Joe Biden and the decline of American power.” By Joe Gill; politico.com, “The never-ending, ever-frustrating hunt for the ‘Biden doctrine’ For decades, Washington has been searching for Joe Biden’s foreign policy vision. But why?”By Nahal Toosi;
Governmental and Political Posts Both National and International