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Old 02-15-2016   #1
Bill Moore
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Default Obama's Grand Strategy

On SWJ we repeatedly see posts that the Obama administration doesn't have a grand strategy. Either those posting don't understand what a grand strategy is, or more likely they disagree and believe his grand strategy is ineffective. That is quite different from not having a grand strategy. Dr. Hal Brands provides a simple summary of Obama's grand strategy, and while a little dated little has changed:http://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace...Grand Strategy


Breaking Down Obama's Grand Strategy

Quote:
Grand strategy is essentially an integrated set of principles and priorities that give structure to a country’s statecraft. It consists of a series of considered, interlocking judgments: about the nature of the global environment, a country’s highest goals and interests within that environment, the primary threats to those goals and interests, and the ways that finite resources can be deployed accordingly. These judgments make up a sort of intellectual calculus that informs policy, the various concrete initiatives—diplomacy, foreign aid, the use of force—through which states interact with the world. Put simply, a grand strategy is the basic conceptual framework that helps nations navigate a complex and dangerous international environment.
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The very endeavor of grand strategy requires countries to prioritize among competing challenges and opportunities, and to make painful decisions about trade-offs between various goals and objectives. It forces officials to relate short-term policies to long-term interests, and to both exploit and preserve the myriad sources of national power. Moreover, they must do all of this in a constantly evolving international environment, and amid the furies of domestic and bureaucratic politics at home.
3 Principles of Obama's grand strategy

1. Preserve the international order by sustaining the American leadership and primacy on which it rests.

2. Engage with smarter, cheaper, and more prudent ways for exerting leadership, especially when the use of force is required.
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This means avoiding prolonged stability operations that the country can no longer afford, and finding more discreet ways of applying force.
3. Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific

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These principles have generally anchored the administration’s thinking about big-picture global issues, that they cut across key strategy documents and policy statements, they relate to one another in fairly coherent ways, and their influence can be seen across a broad range of actual initiatives.
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Obama’s grand strategy may be plausible enough, but it also carries within it 5important problems and dilemmas.
1. It lacks rhetorical punch (no rallying cry)
2. Means and Ends are aligned (and increasingly they are misaligned)
3. Challenges in Europe will hinder the rebalance to Asia
4. Pivoting from strength to weakness (specifically in the Middle East)
5. Under reach can be as dangerous as overreach

Quote:
Above all, there is the broader danger that too much retrenchment or caution could undermine the stability of the post–Cold War system in which the United States has thrived and prospered
.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-15-2016 at 08:55 PM. Reason: fix link
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Old 02-15-2016   #2
Bill Moore
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Default Preventing Mass Atrocities

The four enduring U.S. national security interests are security, prosperity, international order, and values. Looking first at values first due to the understandably high interest in the unspeakable human atrocities taking place in Syria currently. This how the 2015 National Security Strategy addressed this sub topic of values. Bold areas are my emphasis.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/def...y_strategy.pdf

Quote:
Prevent Mass Atrocities
The mass killing of civilians is an affront to our common humanity and a threat to our common security. It destabilizes countries and regions, pushes refugees across borders, and creates grievances that extremists exploit. We have a strong interest in leading an international response to genocide and mass atrocities when they arise, recognizing options are more extensive and less costly when we act preventively before situations reach crisis proportions. We know the risk of mass atrocities escalates when citizens are denied basic rights and freedoms, are unable to hold accountable the institutions of government, or face unrelenting poverty and conflict. We affirm our support for the international consensus that governments have the responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocities and that this responsibility passes to the broader international community when those governments manifestly fail to protect their populations. We will work with the international community to prevent and call to account those responsible for the worst human rights abuses, including through support to the International Criminal Court, consistent with U.S. law and our commitment to protecting our personnel. Moreover, we will continue to mobilize allies and partners to strengthen our collective efforts to prevent and respond to mass atrocities using all our instruments of national power.
They authors certainly got the strategic context right, not only is this slaughter an affront to our humanity, it is creating a set of second and third order security issues. The mass migration is creating security challenges well beyond the borders of Syria, and the situation is creating an opportunity for extremists to exploit in ways we probably haven't seen fully manifest yet.

Is this is a case of strategic under reach on the U.S.'s part? Where do we even stand right now in regards to policy as it relates to Assad's and Russia's deliberate assault on civilians? Are we being wise to stay disengaged from preventing further atrocities (establishing no fly zones, safe zones, drawing red lines), or strategically foolish?
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Old 03-13-2016   #3
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Default The Obama Doctrine

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...ctrine/471525/

The Obama Doctrine

The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.

Quote:
Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (“I love that guy,” Obama once told me). Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union;
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Obama flipped this plea on its head. “When you have a professional army,” he once told me, “that is well armed and sponsored by two large states”—Iran and Russia—“who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict …” He paused. “The notion that we could have—in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces—changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”
Why he didn't reinforce the red line in Syria:

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“We had UN inspectors on the ground who were completing their work, and we could not risk taking a shot while they were there. A second major factor was the failure of Cameron to obtain the consent of his parliament.”

The third, and most important, factor, he told me, was “our assessment that while we could inflict some damage on Assad, we could not, through a missile strike, eliminate the chemical weapons themselves, and what I would then face was the prospect of Assad having survived the strike and claiming he had successfully defied the United States, that the United States had acted unlawfully in the absence of a UN mandate, and that that would have potentially strengthened his hand rather than weakened it.”

The fourth factor, he said, was of deeper philosophical importance. “This falls in the category of something that I had been brooding on for some time,” he said. “I had come into office with the strong belief that the scope of executive power in national-security issues is very broad, but not limitless.”
The following is well in said IMO,

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“For all of our warts, the United States has clearly been a force for good in the world,” he said. “If you compare us to previous superpowers, we act less on the basis of naked self-interest, and have been interested in establishing norms that benefit everyone. If it is possible to do good at a bearable cost, to save lives, we will do it.”
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Those who speak with Obama about jihadist thought say that he possesses a no-illusions understanding of the forces that drive apocalyptic violence among radical Muslims, but he has been careful about articulating that publicly, out of concern that he will exacerbate anti-Muslim xenophobia. He has a tragic realist’s understanding of sin, cowardice, and corruption, and a Hobbesian appreciation of how fear shapes human behavior.
We have seen this in spades in the U.S., often driven by political leverage to gain support during elections.

This a lengthy, but important article to gain a deeper understanding of decision making at the national level in the Obama administration. Decisions were preceded by substantial debate. I think the President makes many sound points, but as the article tends to argue, the President has also under reached and that has resulted in more risk to our national interests in the long run. At least that is on argument, one I tend to agree with.

The article covers Libya, East Asia, etc.
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Old 03-13-2016   #4
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
On SWJ we repeatedly see posts that the Obama administration doesn't have a grand strategy. Either those posting don't understand what a grand strategy is, or more likely they disagree and believe his grand strategy is ineffective. That is quite different from not having a grand strategy. Dr. Hal Brands provides a simple summary of Obama's grand strategy, and while a little dated little has changed:http://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace...Grand Strategy


Breaking Down Obama's Grand Strategy





3 Principles of Obama's grand strategy

1. Preserve the international order by sustaining the American leadership and primacy on which it rests.

2. Engage with smarter, cheaper, and more prudent ways for exerting leadership, especially when the use of force is required. 3. Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific

1. It lacks rhetorical punch (no rallying cry)
2. Means and Ends are aligned (and increasingly they are misaligned)
3. Challenges in Europe will hinder the rebalance to Asia
4. Pivoting from strength to weakness (specifically in the Middle East)
5. Under reach can be as dangerous as overreach

.
The very term Grand Strategy is wrong. It would literally translate to a Grand or Super General!?!? What we should get back to is what it actually is and that is "Policy"!!!! What is our Policy? That is the proper question? We need to stop following old European concepts and use American concepts. Look at the YouTube video of President Kennedy on the Cuban Missile Crisis for a good example. Presidents do Policy Generals do Strategy!
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Old 03-15-2016   #5
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Another interpretation of the Obama doctrine and how his strategy has undermined American power prematurely. A few quips from the article follow.

http://www.theatlantic.com/internati...ionist/473205/

Obama Is Not a Realist
He’s an isolationist with drones and special-operations forces.

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Is Obama overseeing the self-containment, or “self-disempowerment,” of the mightiest nation on earth?
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All told, in Goldberg’s words, Obama believes that the “the price of direct U.S. action would be higher than the price of inaction.”

Realism is more complicated. A realist knows that distant threats, if ignored, can turn into direct ones.
Speaking of the Middle East

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Today, the Russians are back in force, posing a deadly risk to anybody who would dislodge them from the Levant. Today, Assad’s army is on a roll; millions of refugees have flooded into neighboring lands and into Europe.
True about Assad for now, but it appears Obama got it right about the Russians being unable to sustain themselves in Syria due to over reaching in the Ukraine and the drop in oil prices. They had ends and ways without means. Assuming the Russians actually do pull out the question then becomes s will Assad stand without active Russian intervention? Is Iran on its last legs also?
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Old 03-15-2016   #6
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http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...-about-it.html

‘America in Retreat’: Why Neo-Isolationism Exploded Under Obama and What We Can Do About It


Pulitzer Prize winner Bret Stephens’ new book looks at an America in retreat from global engagement.

The book: America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder

http://www.amazon.com/America-Retrea...&linkCode=as2&

Stephens argues the only alternative to American global dominance are three failed approaches to security: liberal peace, balance of power, and collective security.

Quote:
But future readers interested in learning about the era in which America decided to withdraw from its responsibilities as global hegemon should turn to Stephens’ book, which is not merely a critique of the Obama administration but a more general endorsement of America’s role as world policeman.
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Old 03-15-2016   #7
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Professor Scott Walker, an American and long time UK resident, has a scathing review of President Obama's recent interview: https://theconversation.com/obama-blithely-sells-out-his-allies-and-millions-of-syrians-in-legacy-interview-56224?
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Old 03-15-2016   #8
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Interesting arguments that Obama is somehow an isolationist in any sense. It's better defined as 'selective engagement'.
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Old 03-16-2016   #9
OUTLAW 09
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...-about-it.html

‘America in Retreat’: Why Neo-Isolationism Exploded Under Obama and What We Can Do About It


Pulitzer Prize winner Bret Stephens’ new book looks at an America in retreat from global engagement.

The book: America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder

http://www.amazon.com/America-Retrea...&linkCode=as2&

Stephens argues the only alternative to American global dominance are three failed approaches to security: liberal peace, balance of power, and collective security.
I have here stated since Putin's Crimea military annexation that Obama and his NSC are the weakest we have seen in over 70 years....AND that you cannot tell the difference between the Wilsonian policies of 1920 from Obama's FP.

That has all been without any books....just what the straight reality on the ground has been telling us...it is just many did not want to "see" it.

Just as I have been pointing out the three hardcore Putin geopolitical goals behind his non linear war and believe me now..it is a the first true 21st century grey zone war...meaning just a tad under direct confrontation but a war nevertheless.

1. damage and discredit NATO
2. damage and discredit EU
3. disconnect the US completely from ME and Europe

Reference point 1.....almost achieved since NATO basically turned it's back on Turkey and did not threaten to use Article 5 in the confrontation with Putin and his support for the PKK and now equally Putin's support to the US supported proxy YPG which is just a subunit of PKK coupled with the debate on whether NATO will or will not support the Baltics in an Article 5 event. BTW....this NATO position was overall pushed by the Obama WH prior to the NATO meeting...

Reference point 2......almost achieved via the refugee crisis..... and with the vast Russian money and info war support for European right wing populist parties down to even neo Nazi parties.
Putin's hand grows stronger as right-wing parties advance in Europe
http://bloom.bg/1pmca6V via @leonidragozin

Germany...far right wing populist AfD is winning parliament seats in virtually all of the major elections now.....AfD is anti EU, anti immigrant...anti NATO and anti US and funded by Russia as is the French National Front also scheduled to have major wins in France which is just as equally anti EU and anti NATO coupled with the open and direct Russian funding/info war support of Brexit campaign.

Reference point 3.....Obama has actually allowed Russia to fully achievement this point all on his own...especially with the release of his Obama doctrine interview one can "see" exactly how Obama himself supports this.....

These achievements are not as some have stated here..."melodramatic".....it is the ground reality staring us literally in the face and daily now...

I have also been hammering the theme Putin truly wants a "new Yalta 2.0"...and his FM basically stated as much this week.....posted the interview.

My serious concern is simply...Obama also wants a new Yalta 2.0 as well and that is extremely dangerous for Europe as a whole and no US President has openly advanced that concept as has Obama especially if one really "reads" his Doctrine interview....

NOW take all the recent interviews with Obama and his actual actions over the past seven going on eight years and then tell me Obama is not an isolationist in the Wilsonian sense of the word....AND what did it cost the US when it came out of that isolation phase....??

Plenty......

BTW...all of this was seen without the aid of a single book......ground reality is an excellent instructor if one is willing to just "see and understand".....something we forgot in Iraq to do and it is killing us in the ME.

Obama thinks of himself as a progressive realist.....he is neither a true progressive nor a true realist as he runs from the use of the terms "invasion and genocide" like a vampire from a silver cross.

He is simply far more interested in his image and his legacy than anything else ie Syrian genocide, a Russian invasion of Ukraine and the forceful military annexation of Crimea which changed the borders of Europe for the first time since the Wall fell.

The impromptu rap in front of the WH
The White House
✔ ‎@WhiteHouse Wait for it... ⬇ #Bam4Ham

Last edited by OUTLAW 09; 03-16-2016 at 08:09 AM.
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Old 03-16-2016   #10
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Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
Interesting arguments that Obama is somehow an isolationist in any sense. It's better defined as 'selective engagement'.
Agreed, and I disagree with Outlaw's assertion that Wilson was an isolationist. The country at that time was in an isolationist mood, but Wilson was engaged globally (selectively). He sent two military expeditions to Mexico, managed to gain support to enter WWI, shaped the post WWI world order (arguably ineffectively, but he was engaged), and pushed for China's independence. Neither Obama nor Wilson were isolationists.
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Old 03-16-2016   #11
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Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
Professor Scott Walker, an American and long time UK resident, has a scathing review of President Obama's recent interview: https://theconversation.com/obama-blithely-sells-out-his-allies-and-millions-of-syrians-in-legacy-interview-56224?
Some of this seems a little over the top, but of course he has a narrative and going over the top makes it resonate more.

Quote:
Rather than evaluate what could be done to mitigate the damage, Obama has chided allies such as Britain, Germany, and France. He has implicitly lashed out at his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as she campaigns to succeed him. And he has shown little regard for the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have been killed and the millions who have been displaced, and who will continue to die and flee in his final months in office.
Chided? Britain allegedly ran out of munitions during the Libya operation. If true, chiding may be called for, since there are certain expectations that everyone in a collective security organization like NATO pulls their weight. Of course we know that isn't the case and hasn't been the case for decades now. Obama wasn't the only President to call them out, and Dick Cheney referred to the original members as "old Europe," and it wasn't intended as a compliment. Several former U.S. SECDEFs called NATO members out for not investing the bare minimum of their GDP into defense as agreed upon. The term freeloaders may be a loaded term, but it isn't entirely without merit. The interview also suggested a close relationship between Merkel and Obama, so not sure where the chiding is there. As for France, they have been increasingly supportive when it comes to pursuing mutual interests in a number of areas. Obama ignored the advice from two of his Secretaries of State, Bush ignored Secretary of State Powell, and I'm sure if we go back in history we'll find plenty of examples. At the end of the day the President if responsible for making the decision. He or she must compare the pro's and con's not only as it relates to diplomacy, but our security, our economic interests, and the will/appetite of the American people, all that and more influence a decision. I think most agree his call on Syria, while understandable, was a bad call, but he owned up to it (surprisingly). Oddly, he sees that decision as a positive.
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Old 03-16-2016   #12
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Outlaw,

Really?

Quote:
3. disconnect the US completely from ME and Europe
Quote:
Reference point 3.....Obama has actually allowed Russia to fully achievement this point all on his own...especially with the release of his Obama doctrine interview one can "see" exactly how Obama himself supports this.....

These achievements are not as some have stated here..."melodramatic".....it is the ground reality staring us literally in the face and daily now...
I made the statement and I'll make it again, this is melodramatic. We're not "completely" out of the Middle East or Europe, nor is there any indication that will happen despite Russia's alleged desires to push us out. Though it does seem that Russia downsized in the ME almost overnight. We have more forces in Europe than we did when Bush left office. This doesn't even address our diplomatic and economic engagement. We're still heavily engaged in the ME, and will be for some time to come. There is also a depend signal from both regions for us to be engaged more than we are. We're still a great power, but we have enough crises (slow burn and immediate) to deal with it without creating the myth that we have somehow been pushed out of either of those regions.
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Old 03-16-2016   #13
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HAS there been a sudden "awakening" or second coming in the Obama WH??.....Kerry and Nuland were constantly ramming down the throat of Ukraine that they had to implement "unilateral appeasement moves" without a single reciprocal demand being made on Russia......ie hold Russian demanded elections inside the so called Russian occupied eastern zone of Ukraine....very similar to the demands by Assad to hold elections in all of Syria but basically only what he holds.....

These US unilateral demands were being backed up by Germany and French FM statements.......now when it appears the entire Ukrainian civil society is fully against it...we get this...

Nuland: Russia should not expect constitutional changes in Ukraine until Minsk deal...
http://www.unian.info/politics/12913...plemented.html

NOW a sudden tonal change by Nuland...what happened??????
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