Don’t Get It Twisted: There Is an Obama Doctrine

This is as good a global doctrine as you could ask for: steady, cautious and collaborative.

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A questionable and just-short-of-anarchist crusade from Edward Snowden, with intensified bullying from Russian President Vladimir Putin, gives the false and crudely offensive impression of impotence. That’s had the effect of dangerously projecting a timid, pushover president at a time when rivals are testing us, whether it’s the Russians in Ukraine, the North Koreans in Asia or Boko Haram in West Africa.

Obama is not weak. Maybe he’s a bit too slow for comfort on the draw, and maybe a bit too deliberative and overly wonkish when events call for speed. But we had that, right? And look where it got us. Working smarter rather than shooting hard is a groove we should all get used to. He is simply making an attempt at fitting in, as best he can, to the tune of the times we live in. That’s as good a global doctrine as you could ask for: steady, cautious and collaborative when it’s time to pass it on.

Of course, there’s nothing we can do in either Syria or Ukraine just short of full-blown war—and who wants that? In Syria, Obama achieved his goal: to keep us out of it. In Ukraine, it’s the same: Do what you do, Putin. We’ve got the world’s largest economy to mend over here.

We can’t eliminate deficits, debt and the famously “out of control” federal spending that Republicans love to campaign on if we’re endlessly mired in foxholes. 

In this day and age of troop drawdowns, defense cutbacks and a cautious imperative to de-fang the surveillance state, the Obama doctrine is simply doing what we set it to do. Americans will need to fundamentally alter their Hollywood-baked perceptions of tanks rolling into the explosion-lit horizon blasting whatever comes their way. It’s not as simple as John Wayne in Green Berets or as over-the-top as Chris Evans in Captain America. We don’t need more sheriffs—just a few more social workers, teachers and therapists as we rebuild for the next Great Reset. Make up your mind.

Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and regular contributor to The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and chief political correspondent for Uptown magazine. Follow him on Twitter.