Jeffrey Goldberg: The Obama Doctrine, R.I.P. – The Atlantic

Even before he became president, Obama worried greatly about slippery slopes in the Middle East. In Syria, he understood that Assad would most likely survive an American missile strike on his airbases; the day after such strikes ended, Assad, Obama believed, would have emerged from his hiding place, and declared victory: The greatest power in the world tried to destroy him, and failed. Obama was acutely aware that a one-off strike (a theoretical strike described as “unbelievably small” by his secretary of state, John Kerry), could possibly have served as a convincing brush-back pitch, but he was also aware that such a limited strike could have been wholly ineffectual, and even counterproductive. Assad and his allies, understanding that the appetite of average Americans for yet another Middle Eastern war was limited, could have tried to provoke Obama into escalation. An all-out war against the Syrian regime would have been, in many ways, Obama’s Iraq. And Obama wasn’t interested in having his own Iraq.

The curious thing is that Donald Trump is also not interested in having his own Iraq. And yet here he is. Obama was known for an overly cerebral commitment to the notion of strategic patience. Trump seems more committed to a policy of glandular, non-strategic impatience. Obama may have been paralyzed by a phobic reaction to the threat posed by the slippery slope. Donald Trump now finds himself dancing at the edge of the slippery slope his predecessor so assiduously avoided.

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bob
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As usual, JG writes a well written thoughtful piece that helps one to better understand events. Since Trump incomprehensively provided Assad with a atta boy fireworks display, (military strike you say?????) I been reading and seeing/hearing all kinds of thoughtful, well presented perspectives about this event.

I do think it’s time for these well informed, articulate commentators to just say in plain language what seems obvious to me.

That fellow doesn’t know what he’s doing.

For example, JG’s dry, “President Trump’s governing foreign policy doctrine is not easily discernible, of course.” will not do.

He doesn’t know what he’s doing and that should be alarming to everyone no matter what your political orientation. The people around him who do know what they’re doing cannot save the day because he’s the Pres and they are not.

Of course we can observe that no one can “know what they doing” in that job. But the present situation far surpasses this baseline meaning, and it cries out for the explicit, alarming observation that “He doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!”

Wade McKenzie
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Wade McKenzie

President Obama articulated a doctrine of sorts regarding U.S. policy vis a vis the Syrian civil war, which more or less stated that the U.S. would not concern itself overmuch with the Syrian conflict unless chemical weapons were used. In that event, President Obama clearly suggested that an American military response would be in order.

When chemical weapons were subsequently deployed in the Ghouta incident, President Obama hesitated to carry out his implied threat–a hesitation that was widely construed by establishment commentators and politicians at the time to have been a blunder. Even so, the Obama administration managed to secure an agreement from the Syrian regime to surrender its remaining chemical weapon stockpiles.

The most recent episode of chemical weapons use in Syria–which U.S. intelligence is apparently certain was carried out by the Assad regime–suggests either that the Syrian government cheated on the previous agreement or has since produced fresh stock–clearly an unacceptable development for ongoing U.S. policy.

If President Obama were still occupying that office at this point in time, it seems probable that he himself would have carried out a strike not at all dissimilar from the one President Trump ordered. In any case, the strike–admittedly more symbolic than practical–is a logical step relative to a U.S. policy enunciated by the Obama administration and obviously embraced by the Trump administration as well–namely, expressing severe disapproval over the use of chemical weapons in contemporary conflicts.

Despite the fact that political establishments in both North America and Europe aren’t inclined to laud President Trump, the missile strike has garnered widespread support from those same establishments, with the recent G-7 summit of foreign ministers being a good example. If “[President Trump] doesn’t know what he’s doing!!!!!!”, at least in this particular instance, then it is evidently the case that the same political establishments so beloved of C.K. MacLeod don’t know what they’re doing either.

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[C]limate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.

It is not easy to know how much to be reassured by that bleak certainty, and how much to wonder whether it is another form of delusion; for global warming to work as parable, of course, someone needs to survive to tell the story. The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use (deforestation, cow farts, etc.) will have to zero out; and we will need to have invented technologies to extract, annually, twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the entire planet’s plants now do. Nevertheless, by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans — a confidence perhaps bolstered by their appreciation for climate change, which is, after all, a human invention, too. They point to the Apollo project, the hole in the ozone we patched in the 1980s, the passing of the fear of mutually assured destruction. Now we’ve found a way to engineer our own doomsday, and surely we will find a way to engineer our way out of it, one way or another. The planet is not used to being provoked like this, and climate systems designed to give feedback over centuries or millennia prevent us — even those who may be watching closely — from fully imagining the damage done already to the planet. But when we do truly see the world we’ve made, they say, we will also find a way to make it livable. For them, the alternative is simply unimaginable.

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They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow's meddling to that point was seen as deeply concerning but unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day. They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia's efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.

This, right here. This is where they choked. The American people had damned close to an absolute right to the information their government already had. The most fundamental act of citizenship is the right to cast an informed vote. The idea that the Obama administration withheld the fact that the Russians were ratfcking the election in order to help elect a vulgar talking yam is a terrible condemnation of the whole No Drama Obama philosophy. Would Donald Trump have raised hell if the White House released what it knew? Of course, he would have. But, as it was, the American people went to vote with only about half of the information they needed to assess his candidacy. This was a terrible decision.

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Changing views of U.S. presidents over past decade and a halfAs Pew Research Center’s global surveys from George W. Bush’s presidency illustrated, many of Bush’s key foreign policies were unpopular, and by the time he left office Bush was viewed negatively in most of the countries we polled. His successor, Obama, generally received more positive ratings throughout his White House tenure.Today, in many countries, ratings for President Trump look very similar to those for Bush at the end of his term. This pattern is especially clear in Western Europe. In the UK, France, Germany and Spain, the low levels of confidence in Trump are very similar to the poor ratings for Bush in 2008.

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Wade McKenzie
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Wade McKenzie
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bob
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just a note on your observation about the whiskey rebellion

https://youtu.be/ASZ7NXD4i1s

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