The Obama Doctrine: A Brave New World

An excerpt from the inaugural address of President Barack H. Obama, delivered January 20, 2009.

My fellow Americans:

When I was running for this office that you have chosen to entrust with me, I pledged that I would end this foolish war in Iraq and withdraw our troops. As my first action as your president, I am honoring that commitment. First thing tomorrow morning, I will instruct the Joint Chiefs to immediately begin withdrawing our forces on as rapid a basis as possible, with the last American to be out if Iraq by Christmas of this year.

To the government of Iraq, I quote the classic film “Animal House:” “You fucked up. You trusted us.” When you agreed to stand against the terrrorists and insurgents and Baathists and outside agitators and form a government with our assistance, you placed your faith and your very lives — along with the lives of your loved ones — in our hands.

You should have learned the lesson of the Iraqis who rebelled against Saddam in 1998. Or the lessons the Somalis learned in 1993. Or the lesson that the people of Lebanon learned in 1982. Or the lesson that the Shah of Iran learned in 1978. Or the lesson learned by the people of South Viet Nam in 1975. Or our own Native American tribes, who saw us set aside or just plain ignore almost every treaty we signed with them as we took more and more of their lands and confined them to reservations.

That lesson is simple: if you put your faith in America to stand by its commitment to stand by you, to defend you, to fight alongside you, you are a fool. We will keep that pledge as long as it is convenient and expedient, then will cut and run and leave you high and dry without a single glance back.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. It has been a bedrock principle for international politics for centuries. The word of almost every government has always had the unspoken condition: “as long as it suits our purposes, and not an instant longer.” The only change was that America actually tried to convince the rest of the world that we were different, that our word was our bond, that our commitment actually meant something, and was not something that would be tossed on to the ash heap of history at our soonest convenience.

To the rest of the world, I say this: if you threaten us, our interests, or our allies, we will fight you. We will stand against you, we will unleash as much of our military force as we find politically expedient, spend enough money to run the risk of making ourselves uncomfortable, and then we will concede the battle and run back to safer places — or run home entirely — should you put up enough of a fight.

The era of America being “the world’s policeman” is over. Should some nation or group commit some great atrocity, some crime against humanity, America will stand ready to say “tsk, tsk” with the rest, to wring our hands and wish that someone would do something, and then go back to business as usual with the butchers and the terrorists and the oppressors and the conquerors. Remember, my door is always open to any nation or quasi-nation, and my State Department is ready to negotiate with anyone about anything at any time. I know and accept that the likelihood of any of these agreements actually meaning anything are virtually non-existent, but I am ready and prepared to do whatever it takes to win a Nobel Peace Prize, just like my hero, Jimmy Carter.

To echo the words of President Kennedy, let the word go forth from this time and place that a new era of Americanism has begun. No longer do we seek to be respected and trusted. From now on, we just want to be liked. Or, at least, not disliked, and we are prepared to undo any deeds, apologize for any wrongs, renounce any pledges, betray any ally, and flee any fight if it might move us closer to that goal.

To this I pledge our nation’s lives, our national self-esteem, and the very last shreds of our nation’s honor.

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