The Obama doctrine is more words than mission

 

             President Obama has rediscovered his gift for words following the killing of Bin Laden. He now tells us he believes in democracy, freedom and the right to peaceful protest in the Middle East. What he does not tell us convincingly  is how he thinks the Middle East can get to that happy state, and how the USA thinks it is helping.

             The truth is the USA intervenes militarily in some places and not in others. Where it has invaded and occupied, in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has found it very difficult to impose a western style democracy it is happy with. In other places with equally undemocratic regimes that offend western ideals of civil liberties and freedoms the USA either turns a blind eye or thinks condemnations and sanctions suffice as a response.

              Many independent commentators think the US policy has an altogether more down to earth common thread, the defence of western access to oil. When the UK was the major world power and the USA the challenger for that onerous crown, the USA condemned too much intervention in other people’s countries and affairs. The USA argued against invasion and occupation, calling it colonisation. Now the US is the world’s superpower it has allowed itself to be dragged into more direct involvement.

            Mr Obama should make a sequel speech answering  the following questions:

How important is the supply of oil to the west in his thinking, and what are his policies to reduce US dependence on imported Middle Eastern oil?

Why does the USA take direct military action to tackle what it sees as the government problems of Iraq and Afghanistan, but not of other countries?

Does the USA want regime change in Libya or not?

Does revenge make for good policy? Why did the USA take much  stronger action against Afghanistan than Pakistan following 9/11?

Why is Syria more unacceptable than Bahrain or Saudi, but less unacceptable than Afghanistan or Iraq?

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26 Comments

  1. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Obama is much more simple than all that. There have been two major terrorist attacks against American citizens within recent memory – 9/11 and Lockerbie. He is after vengeance. One down, one to go – and not for want of trying.

  2. norman
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    To be fair to Obama, who I’ve little time for, he inheirited a lot of things from Bush that he can’t simply walk away from (same as Cameron from Blair) and the Middle East has always been an intractable problem.

    Better men than any of our current leaders have tried and failed to change things there. It’s a pity he was dragged, to all appearances reluctantly, into another fiasco by Cameron and Sarkozy.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Oil – yes. We really need to protect that. But it comes mainly from (friendly) Saudi and (conquered) Iraq, doesn’t it? Also there is the exciting possibility of deep sea drilling and also shale extraction, neither of which I understand fully yet. The Gulf is still safe and, yes, stable.

    Islam is a religion which demands submission to the will of Allah and the acceptance of Mohammed as His prophet. It is not about the freedom of the individual, the State or personal happiness. You cannot vote for Allah. Also you have complex family systems in a frankly polygamous world – the world of Abraham and Isaac.

    JJ Rousseau, John Locke and the Founding Fathers came from a totally different background. So does the current President of the USA.

    We should not follow the USA into interference in something which we will never understand or agree with. The only problem is keeping Iranian fingers out of the Middle East insofar as they affect oil supplies. And protecting Israel, our one democratic outpost in the Middle East.

    I do not think, myself that these things are being balanced by the speech which, as you point out, raises lots of very hard questions all of which spring from the basic differences between our two civilizations.

  4. Stuart Fairney
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Obama is following the MIUAYGO doctrine, typical of democrat presidents since the 1950’s. There is a lack of clear strategic thinking, overall goals or exit strategy, by it’s very nature it is reactive and doomed to fail and suffer horrible blow back.

    Meanwhile sections of the populace swallow the ludicrous idea that “they hate us because we are free” and the fact that the US has been openly or covertly bombing all over the place seems not to matter.

  5. Peter
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    It’s not just oil that makes the US intervene. Saddam Hussein, Moamar Ghadafi and Dominique Strauss-Kahn were all actively campaigning for a replacement to the US dollar as reserve currency. The empire doesn’t like that as it would mean the main mechanism for Wall St and US corporations in general to exact profits from the rest of the world would end. The message is loud and clear “Mess with the $ and see what happens to you.”

  6. FaustiesBlog
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Anyone tempted to believe Obama’s supposed belief in democracy, should try to match his pre-election words with his deeds since he’s been in office.

    His speech was as hypocritical as they come. Everything (and I mean *everything*) he says he wants for the Muslim countries he has invaded (or intends to invade), he denies his own citizens.

    Americans will trust him at their peril.

  7. Javelin
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Surely not 😉

    But you raise a good question over alternative supplies, or should I say demand and supply.

    1) Put some of that brain power at MIT and CalTec (and Imperial) to work – with a zero tax on efficient energy like cheap batteries, solar power, insulation, low energy TVs etc – and higher tax on inefficient energy like Heavy Cars. Focus on efficient NOT green energy.

    2) Stop developing countries from … well developing and competing for oil. Its OK for these luvvies to want raise living standards in developing countries but they don’t half whine when the price of petrol goes up.

    3) Make the conditions right in the Arab world for good busniess. Twitter and facebook seems to have done more for the Arab Spring than the CIA and FBI. Put up a couple of free satellites for Arab TV stations then sit back and TRUST the Arabs to look after themselves. When leaders dont trust their staff the staff become distrusting. Human nature is fundamentally good and evil only grows in the shadows.

    4) Encourage investment in business in the Arab world. If women think that can get a job and support their family trust them to kick their repressive husbands out – you shouldnt try to create a law.

    3)

  8. oldtimer
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Perhaps US foreign policy may be best summed up as expedient pragmatism.

    In so far as access to oil and gas is concerned, it seems possible that the recent technological developments in the extraction of shale gas will be significant in shifting US foreign policy objectives. US shale gas and coal reserves make it one of the best endowed countries in the world for energy resources. This is in marked contrast with say China and Japan, which must rely very heavily on imports.

    Apparently the UK too has potential as a shale gas producer. It is a pity that this government seems reluctant to do much to promote it. It would be more prodcutive than trying to bomb Ghaddafi out of existence.

  9. Michael Read
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Just a view from sunny Islington. I think we can agree that Obama is smart enough to have anticipated your questions about his difficulties. That he has delayed making statements prior to this week evidences that difficulty.

    Perhaps, you might have suggested how he should position US policy to address the issues. FWIW, I don’t think it can be done. Time and faith are his only cards.

  10. forthurst
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Oil is a convenient alibi which holds some logical justification and may even be partlally true; however, before accepting that as the sole justification for our interventions, I would recommend watching a clip on Youtube of an inverview of General Wesley Clark (Rtd) with Amy Goodman in 2007 and it becomes apparent that oil or pipelines is not the sole motivation behind the ‘shopping list’. Incidentally, Libya which was on the list, was a clever feint, because although orchestrated from Washington, the lead appeared to come from Europe, and as an ‘humanitarian’ mission triggered by an uprising under the buyline, the ‘Arab Spring’, it sneaked through the UN under the noses of Russia and otherwise finessed proper scrutiny. Now Libya will not be able to launch a rival gold-based currency to rival Bernanke’s IOUs written in magic ink.

    Western Democracy, as the West is beginning to realise, is system of government in which deception rather than coercion is the means of ensuring compiance with the objectives of a ‘shadow government’ which in every respect acts contrary to the wishes of the majority of people; that is why the cycle of hopes raised and hopes dashed is never-ending, election after election, law by law.

    The White House has been less than careful recently in its deceptions and probably no credence from precedence needs be placed on Obama’s autocue.
    Anyone interested, can watch on YouTube Obama’s ‘Birth Certificate’ unpacked under Adobe Illustrator into its original nine layers.
    The ‘death’ of Osama has crashed and burned much like the helicopter involved in the ‘mission, to the extent that even some professional politicians have dared stick their heads above the parapet to raise an eyebrow.

  11. Gary
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Answer : Enforcement of oil sold for petrodollars. The demand for which is essential to underwrite the dollar, and without which the dollar would be largely abandoned. Petrodollars are recycled through New York and City of London banks into T-bonds generating huge revenues.

    See :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrodollar_warfare

    A good book :

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Petrodollar-Warfare-Iraq-Future-Dollar/dp/0865715149

  12. English Pensioner
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    As I understood from the BBC News this morning, Obama wants Israel to return to its frontiers prior to the 1967 6 day war. Israel won this war, and throughout the ages, the victor has always decided the fate of any territory it conquered, so why should this be treated differently?
    This is appeasement, pure and simple, and we all know that appeasement doesn’t work in the long run. Over the years, not one of the concessions that Israel has made to the Arabs has resulted in any reciprocal concessions, they simply demand more.
    If Obama is keen on returning to the historical status quo, why doesn’t he return the US to the state it was before the Civil War, or in order to appease the British, return our territory to us on a pre-1773 basis?
    But then as long as he’s all talk, but no action, does it matter what he says, as all he is doing at the moment is steadily reducing the respect that people might have for his country.

    • sjb
      Posted May 21, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      English Pensioner: “[…] the victor has always decided the fate of any territory it conquered, so why should this be treated differently?”

      In 1982, we didn’t say to the Falklanders: “Bad luck, your fate lies with the Argies now.” Similarly, in 1990 we didn’t let Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait stand.

      Acceptance of force that displaces people from their lands seems to me appeasement and likely to encourage further aggression. For instance, what would deter Israel from occupying more neighbouring lands and thus creating more refugees? Should we appease them by conceding the borders set out in Exodus 23:31? But what if their territorial ambitions for more living space are still not sated? They probably even have the capaicty to occupy the oil fields in Saudi.

  13. Neil Craig
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it is even about oil – Afghanistan & Yugoslavia had none, when we occupied Iraq we did little about getting the oil moving and Gaddafi was happy to sell it to us without bombing. If it were anything at all about money we could be getting unlimited power from solar power satellites and unlimited resources from asteroid mining for a fraction of what we spend killing people.

    I think it is about politicians thinking wars make them look good on TV and keep the common people scared and obedient. Such wars serve the same purpose os Roman gladiatorial games.

    “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Ledeen#Quotations

  14. stred
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Whatever the US or any other country does, the sale of oil is irrelevant. Even if Bin Laden were in charge by now, he would sell oil on the open market and he would need oil companies to put it there. The idea that Bush junior invaded Iraq for oil is ridiculous. He invaded because he Saddam had tried to knock off his dad. Also both were descesdents of Crusaders and he used that language. Blair was our mug to go along with it.

    • BobE
      Posted May 20, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      Saddam threatened to only trade Oil in Euro’s. That was why he had to go.

      Reply: Hardly! It makes little difference to the US which currency is used for the oil trade and certainly would not be a cause of war.

      • sjb
        Posted May 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        If oil were no longer sold in dollars then surely the dollar would cease to be the world’s major reserve currency. Consequently, the US would no longer have the luxury of printing more dollars to meet their creditor’s demands. They would have to become an export nation again and, in this new landscape, when buying oil the US would have to convert their dollar earnings into whatever currency oil was priced in.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted May 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        You believe it would not matter to the USA if world markets abandoned the US dollar as a means for trading oil??

        BobE may not have the whole picture but this was part of the casus belli more certainly than Blair’s phoney WMD nonsense or the neo-con infantile ‘democracy in Iraq’ farce

  15. Bernard Otway
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I can’t understand the USA’s dependance on Middle east oil,there is now not the same need
    the world economic order can be restructured by them SHOWING these oil states that they will in future rely on it’s own resources much more and those of neighbour nations.
    For instance there are billions of barrels of oil in oil shale deposits particularly in Colorado,
    there are huge deposits of gas in shale now extractable by fracturing,Sasol of South Africa has developed a method of turning this into liquid fuel and is doing so already with Qatar’s huge field,the USA can also subcontract Sasol to turn their huge coal resources into liquid fuel ,which it has been doing in it’s home market since before I went there in 1981 so much so that 20% of their petrol now is produced that way,and profitably since oil is at such a high price ,finally it is estimated that there may be more oil in the Athabasca tar sands
    in Saskatchwan and Alberta in Canada than there is in Saudi Arabia.

  16. Andrew Johnson
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I love America and Americans, but I loathe its foreign policy, which for well over 100 years has been conducted solely “for the benefit of the USA”, but often foolishly with disastrous consequences for friend and foe alike.
    It’s beautifully summed up by the old WW1 Army joke.
    “When the Germans shoot, the British duck, when the British shoot, the Germans duck, when the Americans shoot, everyone ducks!”
    America’s star appears to be in the early stages of descendancy and President Obama’s policies and pronouncements, don’t seem to be helping, do they?

    It’s more than possible that some of America’s “allies” may begin start looking for help and support from China through it’s quiet but ubiquitous diplomacy. After all, China is now America’s banker.

  17. Javelin
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    At least he doesnt think he is Charlie Bean. Deputy governor Charlie Bean yesterday said the monetary policy committee’s ‘chosen approach has been to accept a temporary period of above target inflation’ to support the recovery.

    Charlie has issued his coup de grace to George Osborne and taken over his job – without even a vote to his name. Unless George changes the policy it appears Charlie is loose cannon in the heart of the Government.

  18. Acorn
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    A bit spicy today JR, the sort of stuff I would expect from the opposition back bench. But good questions none-the-less. For a moment, I thought Obama was a non Zionist president, but I must have got it wrong. He must be flush if he is risking a turn off of AIPAC funds for his re-election.

    The answer to all your questions is Israel and/or Oil. Bahrain is to Saudi as Hong Kong is to mainland China. The US fifth fleet is parked in Bahrain, protecting Gulf oil exports. It took two weeks for the US to dump Mubarak; they only did it when it was obvious he was a busted flush. Being a US puppet dictator, is not what it used to be; having some nukes gives you an edge. Hypocrisy rules OK.

    As for going back to the 1967 map of Palestine. Probably better to go back to the 1922 “British Mandate” map. One thing is for sure, the US taxpayers have no idea how much they are paying to buy friends and grease palms in the middle east. Regime change rules OK.

  19. Bernard Otway
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I invite all readers and commenters to google,Tar sands,Oil shale and shale gas as I have just done.The oil shale recoverable in Colorado ,Utah and Wyoming is equal to 800 billion barrels of oil and at the USA’s current consumption of oil would therefore last 400 years,
    Canada exports more oil to the USA than it consumes itself ,by far the most of this is Athabasca oil,venezuela has bigger oil shale reserves than the USA.My comment is, the USA and the west should hang these facts like the Sword of Damocles over the unstable middle east ,because every supplier has to have a consumer,but if the consumer makes it’s own product then the supplier has to find other customers OR close down.Watch the Billionaires in Saudi,Qatar,UAE,etc QUAKE at this threat.Even the UK’s fractured gas reserves are estimated to be double those of the north sea oil and gas.

  20. lifelogic
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I agree fully but I do not expect Obama to make such a sequel speech. He will remain, as nearly all centre or left politicians are, someone of simple, superficial, illogical, emotion rather than one of logic, principal or producing actual viable solutions.

  21. BobE
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    In 1912 England and Germany both converted to Oil driven warships. Germany began building a railroad to Bagdad to export oil. England put in a battalion to stop them. This led to WW1. The oil wars have been waging ever since.
    As the late Linda Smith once said. “Its our oil under their sand”

  22. Stephen Gash
    Posted May 22, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Why is Syria more unacceptable than Bahrain or Saudi, but less unacceptable than Afghanistan or Iraq?

    Because Libya did not sign up to membership of the Mediterranean Union. For that Gadaffi, who not so long ago was the golden boy of rehabilitation, is being ousted from power, to be replaced by someone who will make Libya a member.

    This Mediterranean Union finally got started in January 2010 after a couple of false starts. It is intended that all countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea will be members, indeed all are except Libya. This eventually will extend to the Arabian Pensinsular, thus including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. Iraq is an intended partner. Its former president was Egypt’s Mubarak.

    In exchange for a modicum of control over oil, free movement of people into the EU and technology knowhow will be given to the North African and Middle Eastern members.

    There is already an MU university in Slovenia.

    As Syria is a fully signed-up member it will not be bombed, nor will Egypt despite its unbridled persecution of the Copts.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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