Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Obama War Doctrine Tiptoes In

Journalism students are taught to “never bury the lead” but, with a little help from the President, I did just that in my last post, raising the question of whether there is a new Obama Doctrine for military action in the Middle East.

Writing about the aftermath of Benghazi, I cited his National Security Adviser’s interview with the New York Times three days ago, headlined “Rice Offers a More Modest Strategy for Mideast.” It was published on Saturday, clearly not designed to excite maximum reaction.

Yet, unless I misread it, Susan Rice was whispering a drastic change in American foreign policy. “We can’t just be consumed 24/7 by one region, important as it is,” she said, adding, “He [Obama] thought it was a good time to step back and reassess, in a very critical and kind of no-holds-barred way, how we conceive the region.”

The result, according to the Times: “The blueprint drawn up on those summer weekends at the White House is a model of pragmatism — eschewing the use of force, except to respond to acts of aggression against the United States or its allies, disruption of oil supplies, terrorist networks or weapons of mass destruction. Tellingly, it does not designate the spread of democracy as a core interest.”

Say again? Wouldn’t the “blueprint” rule out or severely limit the use of force against Syria or, depending on interpretation, even Iran?

If there is no wink and a nod to go with this, John McCain and Lindsey Graham should have gone ballistic. Yet so far, there has only been silence. Even if they don’t believe the President means what Rice says, they should be fulminating over this unwarlike stance by someone they vilified to block her nomination as Secretary of State.

It would be sad if a real turn away from further military involvement in the Middle East were overwhelmed by the current news cycle of outrage over the Administration’s spying on citizens and allies.

At the very least, there should be an A for its effort to stop shedding American blood into a bottomless pool.

“We can’t just be consumed 24/7 by one region, important as it is,” Ms. Rice says.

Just so, and that deserves headlines it has not received. 

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