America is having an international identity crisis. As tensions flare up around the world, America's role has been challenged: Who are we and what do we stand for?
President Obama told West Point graduates in May 2014 that the question is not “whether America will lead but how we will lead.” He says, “America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will.” By definition, this means that America must maintain its status as a superpower, which is defined as a very powerful and influential nation. But for the first time in history, Americans say that the United States is less important and powerful. More than half of Americans (52 percent) also think that the United States “should mind its own business internationally.”
While the president believes we must lead on the world stage, he has been criticized for a seemingly weak and haphazard approach to international affairs. But the Obama Doctrine on foreign intervention has finally become clear, and he outlined it while addressing the graduates of West Point.
The Obama Doctrine
1. If we are directly attacked, we will respond. But with the following conditions:
- The response must be proportional
- The response must be just
- The response must be effective
- The international community must approve
2. If we are not directly attacked, we will engage in the following ways:
- We will use diplomacy
- We will use appropriate sanctions
- We will engage militarily, but only with a coalition of the willing
The challenge becomes whether or not President Obama can maintain America’s superpower status, as he claims we must, while following his international doctrine. He’s been tested on this recently. Here are two examples.
1. When Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, invaded and remains engaged in a war in Eastern Ukraine and shoots down a commercial airliner, Obama’s solution thus far has been targeted sanctions. Russia continues its provocations in Ukraine, its proxy wars around the world and President Putin’s domestic approval rating is at a record high.
2. When evidence emerges of President Assad of Syria gassing tens of thousands of his people, Obama backs away from intervention when he fails to secure a coalition of the willing. New evidence has since emerged of 10,000 anti-Assad Syrians being tortured and killed between 2011 and 2013, yet the Obama administration and international community remains virtually silent.
President Obama’s tactics seem to have failed to achieve his goal of maintaining international peace and prosperity through American leadership. Below is the Adam Goldfein Doctrine for maintaining America’s superpower status.
The Goldfein Doctrine
1. We must be a shining example, a beacon on a hill, of our own principles and values
2. We cannot force or sell democracy or capitalism on other nations
3. We must engage, trade and spread our morality without judgment
4. We must stand up to tyrants, assuming a bigger role in humanity
As a superpower, there is virtually no conflict or international event that doesn’t affect us in some way. It is important that we recognize the chance we have to make our mark on humanity. What do we want written in the history books about the United States? I would hope that we will endure as the nation leading humanity towards peace and prosperity, living by our own principles and standing up to evil. True leadership means that we do this, even when times get tough.
Full transcript of President Obama’s commencement address at West Point (Washington Post)
Chapter 1: The American Brand (Pew Research)
America’s Place in the World 2013 (Pew Research)
10,000 Bodies: Inside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Crackdown (WSJ)