Series: "The Obama Doctrine"

The Pathos of the Rational Leader: Goldberg’s Obama

How can a nation survive, can its institutions function, can it prosper and triumph, can the People experience or aspire to satisfaction without recourse at some point to such “tribalism”? The President cannot answer, because no one can.

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On Obama Doctrine Thesis #4 (The world cannot afford…)

The world cannot afford the diminution of U.S. power, but U.S. power is diminishing.

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“incredibly piss poor leadership” (Obama Doctrine Notes)

Obama seemed to be hoping that a legacy of American “credibility” on such threats would be sufficient to make this one work, without acknowledging – perhaps according to all the best and latest political scientific critiques of “credibility” – the possible damage to American credibility that his own policies had reinforced.

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“no good options” (Obama Doctrine Notes)

“No good options” at some point becomes a rule of moral abdication – a declaration of incapacity to distinguish between worse and better, or of paralysis. Obama himself seems to oscillate between the two views: On the one hand, since there is no good option, judgment has to be suspended, but on the other hand he wants to view or wants us to accept inaction or maximal distance as the better option, so “as good as we can get if not perfect.”

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Understanding American Interests (Steven Heydemann in Washington Post)

“It is sadly ironic that the president’s commitment to inaction has undermined his vision of an international system in which military restraint and a smaller U.S. footprint would produce a more stable and peaceful international order.”

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If Obama Had Followed Through (Hof on the Red Line)

“…[H]ad it laid waste to Assad’s air force, field artillery, Scud missiles, and rockets, the strike would have emptied Assad’s victory speech of substantive content. Yes, the chemicals would have remained in place, and perhaps so too the Assad regime. But instruments of mass terror would have been neutralized, the migrant crisis afflicting Europe might have been averted, and tens of thousands of people now dead would still be alive.”

Posted in International Relations, Neo-Imperialism Tagged with: ,

The Negation of Bush to Equivalent Effect: TC Wittes on the Obama Doctrine

“It is a tragic irony: A president elected and reelected on a platform of ending wars in the Middle East has reproduced, at the end of his presidency, the very situation he inherited, decried, and swore to avoid: an escalating war against a vague terrorist enemy, with no geographic boundaries, no clear military or strategic objectives, and no principles or policies that might stop the slide down this slippery slope.”

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Philip Stephens: Fatalism taints the Obama doctrine – FT.com

“What is missing from the Obama doctrine is a strategic view of the role of US leadership in sustaining global order. Analysis drifts into an excuse for paralysis, but inaction carries as many dangers as intervention. Mr Obama’s realism bleeds into fatalism. To observe that the US cannot solve every problem in a disordered world should not be to conclude it is powerless. Disorder is contagious and does not respect neat lines drawn around core national interests.”

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The Melancholic Anti-Interventionist

If the systematic application of the desired policy leaves even its proponents bitterly unsatisfied with and haunted by the tragedies and catastrophes it either produces or does nothing to avert, then its prospects may be dim. The main question may be which will prove intolerable first, the growing dissatisfaction, or the next catastrophe.

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Defense and Defense Mechanisms

Diehl assesses the Obama Doctrine, or Jeffrey Goldberg’s Obama’s Obama Doctrine, as, in a word, neurotic – as much a psychological construct or defense mechanism as a policy – enabling the President minimize the importance of any setbacks, the alternative being emotionally intolerable.

Posted in International Relations, Neo-Imperialism Tagged with: , ,

Noted & Quoted

This is a Waterloo moment for Trump, the tea party and their alliance.  They have been stopped in their tracks not only by Democratic opposition but because of a mutiny within their own ranks. Although never particularly liked or respected, it is now clear that they are no longer feared. The bankruptcy of their ideas and their incompetence have been exposed. Their momentum has been dissipated. Their rejection of political norms has itself been scorned. Our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end.

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One seasoned Democrat told me that among the reasons Trump won in 2016 was that a long year of Crooked Hillary talk, about emails and Goldman Sachs and the like, had steadily demoralised and demobilised the liberal base. If sustaining fury at Trump helps keep those same voters energised, so they eventually turn out to defeat him, it’ll be worth it, he says.

But it can’t just be in the form of world-weary, if witty, tweets. What’s needed is a coherent argument, one that explains why Trump’s repulsive behaviour matters. For Americans, that will surely centre on the state of their society. The civic realm is being degraded by Trump’s lies, vanities and insults. The national conversation is being coarsened. The basic democratic assumption, that disagreements can be resolved through discussion rather than coercion and violence, is being eroded from the very top. Note the language of Scaramucci’s outburst: “I want to fucking kill all the leakers.”

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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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