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Obama Doctrine-- Repudiating Neocon Foreign Policy

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Message Jean-Luc Basle

On August 5 th , 2015, Barack Obama gave a speech at the American University to explain the reasons behind the Iranian nuclear deal. The choice of location at the American University is not accidental. This is where on June 10, 1963, John Kennedy gave his speech on Soviet-American relations and international relations at large. The speech is still considered today as one of his best.

The Iranian agreement which has just been signed, but not yet ratified by Congress, is a watershed event, an expression of what one might call the Obama doctrine. It's a repudiation of the neocon strategy which dominated US foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union and whose goal was to consolidate the American world hegemony and Israeli supremacy in the Middle East. Its modus operandi was military intervention. The Afghanistan war where the United States have been bucked down since 2001 and the disastrous Iraqi war led to a reexamination of the strategy. As observed by Obama: -- if we've learned anything from the last decade, it's that wars in general and wars in the Middle East in particular are anything but simple." (1) In Obama's view, the goal for the United States is to lead rather than dominate the world. (2) In the Middle East, its goal is to bring stability to the region rather dominance of a country. The agreement is a return to the American policy of the 1950s, 60s and 70s when Iran was viewed as a key player, at par with Israel. In the words of the President, "Iran will remain a regional power..."

The doctrine is also a recognition of the United States' limited power. "We cannot dictate the foreign, economic and energy policies of every major power in the world", said the President. "In order to even try to do that, we would have to sanction, for example, some of the world's largest banks. We'd have to cut off countries like China from the American financial system. And since they happen to be major purchasers of or our debt, such actions could trigger severe disruptions in our own economy and, by the way, raise questions internationally about the dollar's role as the world's reserve currency." Priority is therefore given to diplomacy over military interventions.

The agreement's goal is to avoid war. Obama declares that "Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any U.S. administration" with one option -- another war in the Middle East." Fearing not to be understood, he re-reiterates his statement: "The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war -- maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon."

To amplify his view on international relations and the role of the United States, Barack Obama refers to President Kennedy: --the young President" rejected the prevailing attitude among some foreign policy circles that equated security with a perpetual war footing. Instead, he promised strong, principled American leadership on behalf of what he called a 'practical' and 'attainable peace' -- a peace 'based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions -- on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements.'" He then explains that "what separates us from the empires of old, what has made us exceptional, is not the mere fact of our military might. Since World War II, the deadliest war in human history, we have used our power to try to bind nations together in a system of international law. We have led an evolution of those human institutions President Kennedy spoke about -- to prevent the spread of deadly weapons, to uphold peace and security, and promote human progress." Here, Obama is disingenuous. The United States has followed a policy of regime change around the world ever since World War II, including under his presidency, in Syria and Ukraine, in particular. (3)

Be this as it may, Barack Obama's Iranian agreement is a step in the right direction. It validates, after the fact, the Nobel Peace Prize the President was given precipitously. The neocon strategy was not only irrational, it was also extremely dangerous, likely to lead the world to nuclear annihilation.

(1)According to Westley Clark, the neocons' goal was to destroy Iraq, Syria and Iran. Westley Clark's speech at the Commonwealth Club of California, October 3, 2007

(2)In the National Security Strategy memorandum of February 2015, Barack Obama writes: "The question is never whether America should lead, but how we lead."

(3)The first and most famous case is the removal of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953, at the request of Great Britain.

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Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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