As part of a seminar we’re putting together to educate certain government officials about military doctrine (we being the Governance Project and the Ridgefield Institute for Advanced Policy Study), I’ve been re reading a lot of the old classics on counter insurgency doctrine, something most folk in Washington know very little about these days. A couple of years ago Jeffrey Record wrote a book called Beating Goliath; Why Insurgencies Win, and what I liked about this slim little book was a lengthy quote from Colin Gray on the American way of war. Gray had identified twelve particular features which impacted American policy in war. Number 3 worries about “a defense community led by the historically disrespectful and ill educated” who are “condemned to find itself surprised by events for which some historical understanding could have prepared them.” Number 5 speaks of cultural ignorance: “the american way of war has suffered from the self-inflicted damage caused by a failure to understand the enemy of the day…” Number 4 discusses circumstances in which “conditions are often misread as problems. Conditions have to be endured whereas problems, by definition, can be solved.”
This country is now into 14 years of absolute cluelessness in military policy, an awful long stretch that encompasses pretty much the whole Afghanistan debacle, the Iraq debacle, the entire failed Middle Eastern policy since 2001 and the failed war on terror, as well as the growing failure to contain a resurgent Russia and China. And it just keeps ticking. As I mentioned on a prior thread, the Israeli/Arab situation is not a problem to be solved, but a condition to be endured, yet the current Regime continues to burn political capital trying to resolve something that everyone else finds acceptable. Afghanistan is just a mess of failed historical and cultural understanding. The imploding situation in North Africa and East Africa is just evidence of a failure of the Regime to deal with something before it becomes a real crisis, and then to be surprised by the consequences.
The seminar we are putting together is mostly for Republicans. But in the last few weeks, a number of Democrats, aware that the Republicans are planning to hit hard on foreign policy in 2014, have asked to attend. Nothing wrong, they say, with learning. As we have been putting together the syllabus, one of the questions we’ve been getting is why the Obama Regime isn’t engaging in a serious foreign policy study and debate. I mean, its becoming a bipartisan consensus that American foreign policy is off the rails, that the wheels have come off the bus, and has become reactive rather than pro active, but the Regime seems totally detached, and almost imperial, in its disregard for foreign policy. Indeed, for meaningful policy at all.
Once again, we have to ask–what, exactly, is the Obama foreign policy? I’m not being facetious in asking this question. As part of our seminars, its always helpful for us to start with the existing policy and critique it, yet I’ll be damned if I can figure out what exactly the policy is. By way of example, Obama ran for president against TPP, and now holds it out as the best thing since sliced bread. What changed? Year Six of the Regime, and we’re still in Afghanistan and Gitmo is still open. Why? Obama spoke of greater recognition of global human rights, and yet the war on terror has become a war on democratic values. Are we making the world safer by using drones against individuals in Pakistan when the real threat is rising in Africa? More than 120,000 Syrians have died and nearly 2,000,000 have been displaced, Egypt is on the verge of blowing, Lebanon is falling apart, Jordan is sweating bullets, Iraq is a tinderbox, and the most important problem to solve is Israel’s border issues with the PLO? Why?
Six weeks of five research assistants pouring through speeches and writings have utterly failed to discern a coherent foreign policy, and I’m now forced to conclude that America doesn’t have a foreign policy. (and domestically, Obama is losing an asymmetrical war against insurgents in Congress, and he can’t even seem to understand how to fight that battle either. he doesn’t seem to even understand that he is involved in a domestic war that he is losing) If anyone has any insight into the Obama foreign policy backed by actual writings, I’d like to know about them. I’m not sure “adrift” qualifies as a policy.