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After Six Years You Shouldn’t Need to Tell People What Your Foreign Policy Doctrine Is

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I fail to understand why the administration worked so hard to hype President Obama’s West Point speech. He didn’t really announce any new plans or programs. Instead it was merely sold as Obama “explaining” his foreign policy doctrine.

That of course shouldn’t be something that needs to be explained. If you have been implementing a doctrine for six years it should be obvious to everyone what the doctrine is. If the doctrine isn’t clear by now then you have failed.

The main point of a specific doctrine is predictability. It is to signal to other actors how you are likely to respond so they can weigh the likely rewards and consequences from the United States. A doctrine so complex that it still needs to be explained after six years has no value.

This is why Obama actually trying to explain his doctrine seems so strange. He didn’t reject the entire concept of a doctrine or offer a defense of flexible thinking.  A non-doctrine approach based on the idea that every foreign policy issue is inherently unique and consequently requires fresh examination and specific solutions has some real merit.

Instead Obama implied he actually has a doctrine, but indirectly admitted it is flawed or his execution of it has been very poor because he still needs to explain it.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at