The Obama Doctrine is finally coming into focus.
It's been hard to glean its form because for so long it seemed the president's most obvious guiding principle was "not Bush," particularly when it came to the Iraq war. Indeed, his anti-Bush stance has led him to stubbornly refuse to say the war has been won or to admit that he was wrong to oppose the surge. In the past, this unthinking reflex has caused Obama to take some truly repugnant positions. In July of 2007, Obama said that he would order U.S. forces out of Iraq as quickly as possible, even if he knew it would lead to an Iraqi genocide. This makes Obama the first president in modern memory to have suggested that causing a genocide would be in America's national interest.
Obama himself insists that he's guided by nothing other than a cool-headed pragmatism. Indeed, Obama has a grating habit of describing any position not his own as "ideological," as if his is the only sober, practical understanding of the problems we face. Just days before he was inaugurated, he gave a speech in Baltimore in which he proclaimed, "What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives -- from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry -- an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels."
So ideologues -- i.e. millions of Americans who disagree with his policies on principle -- belong in a list along with bigots and dim bulbs. At home, this attitude has allowed him to dismiss opponents of socialized medicine and the government takeover of various industries as "ideologues," and critics of trillions in debt-fueled spending as small-minded cranks.
Joshua Muravchik, a scholar at Johns Hopkins University and a leading advocate of democracy promotion around the globe, demonstrates in the current issue of Commentary magazine that Obama has a similar attitude toward those who say America should advance the cause of liberty and democracy worldwide. Again and again, the administration has made it clear that spreading freedom is so much ideological foolishness. Before the inauguration, he told The Washington Post that he was concerned with "actually delivering a better life for people on the ground and less obsessed with form, more concerned with substance." There's merit to this view in principle, though Obama seems to be thinking about "economic justice" more than a free society. But in practice, when American presidents say they don't care about democracy, tyrants rejoice.