The Obama Doctrine

(Atlantic) President Barack Obama interviewed by Jeffrey Goldberg - According to former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, President Obama has questioned why the U.S. should maintain Israel's so-called qualitative military edge, which grants it access to more sophisticated weapons systems than America's Arab allies receive. And he decided early on that he wanted to reach out to America's most ardent Middle Eastern foe, Iran. He has bet global security and his own legacy that one of the world's leading state sponsors of terrorism will adhere to an agreement to curtail its nuclear program. In 2009, President Obama gave a speech in Cairo meant to reset U.S. relations with the world's Muslims. When I asked Obama recently what he had hoped to accomplish with his Cairo reset speech, he said that he had been trying - unsuccessfully, he acknowledged - to persuade Muslims to more closely examine the roots of their unhappiness. "My argument was this: Let's all stop pretending that the cause of the Middle East's problems is Israel," Obama told me. "We want to work to help achieve statehood and dignity for the Palestinians, but I was hoping that my speech could trigger a discussion, could create space for Muslims to address the real problems they are confronting - problems of governance, and the fact that some currents of Islam have not gone through a reformation that would help people adapt their religious doctrines to modernity." In private encounters with other world leaders, Obama has argued that there will be no comprehensive solution to Islamist terrorism until Islam reconciles itself to modernity. Obama has come to a number of dovetailing conclusions about the world, and about America's role in it. The first is that the Middle East is no longer terribly important to American interests. The second is that even if the Middle East were surpassingly important, there would still be little an American president could do to make it a better place. The third is that the innate American desire to fix the sorts of problems that manifest themselves most drastically in the Middle East inevitably leads to warfare, to the deaths of U.S. soldiers, and to the eventual hemorrhaging of U.S. credibility and power. His critics believe, however, that problems like those presented by the Middle East don't solve themselves - that, without American intervention, they metastasize.

2016-03-11 00:00:00

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