Military


" ... it is far safer to be feared than loved. For of men it may generally be affirmed, that they are thankless, fickle, false, studious to avoid danger, greedy of gain, devoted to you while you are able to confer benefits upon them, and ready, as I said before, while danger is distant, to shed their blood, and sacrifice their property, their lives, and their children for you; but in the hour of need they turn against you. The Prince, therefore, who without otherwise securing himself builds wholly on their professions is undone. For the friendships which we buy with a price, and do not gain by greatness and nobility of character, though they be fairly earned are not made good, but fail us when we have occasion to use them.
"Moreover, men are less careful how they offend him who makes himself loved than him who makes himself feared. For love is held by the tie of obligation, which, because men are a sorry breed, is broken on every whisper of private interest; but fear is bound by the apprehension of punishment which never relaxes its grasp..."


XVII. Of Cruelty and Clemency, and
Whether It Is Better to Be Loved or Feared
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527). The Prince.

Obama Doctrine

Some hawks argue that the the post-2010 chaos in the world stemmed from Obama’s decision that the US would no longer serve as the world’s policeman. Russia occupyied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, supported pro-Russian armed insurgents in Ukraine, and supported the Assad regime in Syria. China reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea and built military bases with runways. In the East China Sea, it claimed the Senkaku Islands as its own territory and repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters. The Islamic State (IS) dominatee in Iraq and Syria, which contributed to the outbreak of terrorism across the world.

The United States has formally declared war against foreign nations 11 times in its history in 5 separate wars. There were seven other extended military engagements that might be considered undeclared wars which received congressional authorization in some form short of a formal declaration of war. There are over two hundred instances in which the United States has used its Armed Forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes, without Congressional authorization.

No leader, even that of a superpower, can completely control his foreign policy agenda. Much of the actual conduct of a country's foreign policy is in reaction to events initiated by others, events whose occurrence is often quite unexpected and outside its ability to influence. There is usually far less foresight and planning in the actual formulation of foreign policy than commonly expected, and there is usually far more serendipity and post hoc adjustment to events than commonly desired. The foreign policies of these countries are seldom a direct extension of the personality or views of a single individual, even if he is the head of a government. President Barack Obama comes close to being an exception to this generalization.

In October 2009 the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama. The Nobel committee chairman said that under Mr. Obama's leadership "dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts."

Even the president was stunned. "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize," he said. A public opinion poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly agreed. Peter Brown is head of the Quinnipiac University Poll, which surveyed roughly 2,300 Americans about the award. "Twenty-six percent of Americans think that he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize - obviously not a very large number," said Brown. Support was extremely low among Republicans and independent voters. And Brown notes that even among members of the president's own Democratic Party, only 49 percent of voters say the Nobel Committee made the right choice.

On Saturday 31 August 2013, President Barack Obama announced that he would defer military action against Syria, pending approval of the US Congress. He said "... while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective." Candidate Obama told The Boston Globe in late 2007 “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," He added that the president can only act unilaterally in “instances of self-defense.... It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action..."

According to a June 2014 survey from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, approval of his handling of foreign policy hit a new low of 37%. While Obama’s overall foreign policy approval is not high, when it comes to military intervention in ongoing conflicts, the public is with the president.

In a December 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 52% of the public said the US should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own" — the first time since 1964 than more than half the public held that view. About four-in-ten (38%) disagreed. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in April 2014 produced similar results.

Seventy-one percent of Americans said that the war in Iraq “wasn’t worth it," a 25 June 2014 NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll shows, with skepticism about the lengthy war effort up substantially even in the previous 18 months. Just 22 percent believed the 2003 war effort was worthwhile. In a January 2013 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asking the same question, 59 percent of Americans said the war wasn’t worth it, versus 35 percent who said the opposite. Half of respondents in the 2014 poll also said that the United States did not have a responsibility to help the Iraqi government as the country descends into sectarian violence, while 43 percent said that America should intervene.

America has the president it voted for in 2008, the candidate who struck a markedly conciliatory tone by comparison with his six-gun-and-stirrups predecessor George W. Bush. The country as a whole elected Obama over John McCain, the most reputable interventionist that Republicans could muster. A March 2014 Pew Poll found, “By a roughly two-to-one margin (56% vs. 29%), the public says it is more important for the U.S. to not get involved in the situation with Russia and Ukraine than to take a firm stand against Russian actions." Only 31% of Americans said what happened between Russia and Ukraine was very important to US interests, according to an April 2014 Pew Research poll. About six-in-ten (62%) opposed sending arms or military supplies to the Ukraine government.

A CBS News/New York Times poll in September 2013 found that 68% of those surveyed said the US did not have a responsibility to do something in Syria to end the fighting. The attempted détente with Iran began to diffuse American concerns about that country. According to a February 2014 Gallup poll, half as many Americans viewed Iran as the United States' greatest enemy today as did two years ago. Even with sectarian war underway in Iraq, a mere 16 percent of Americans want to see troops sent there; most would prefer a US mission limited to intelligence sharing and diplomacy. And an overwhelming majority wants to be done with Afghanistan, according to a December 2013 CNN/ORC International survey, which found that support for the war in Afghanistan had dipped below 20%.

By mid-2014, Paul Ryan said Obama’s foreign policy was “weak and indecisive." In The Wall Street Journal, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Elizabeth tore into the president, writing, “American freedom will not be secured by empty threats, meaningless red lines, leading from behind, appeasing our enemies, abandoning our allies or apologizing for our great nation." U.S. News and World Report says Obama is “disarming America." In a critique masquerading as reporting, The New York Times’ David Sanger wrote of a “pendulum [that] has swung too far in the direction of nonintervention." America, according to conservative commentator Jennifer Rubin, “appears off-kilter, unreliable and weak." Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., earlier complained that “there are no consequences when you defy what Obama’s telling you to do."

A July 2014 US. poll showed Americans thought President Barack Obama was the country's worst president since World War II. The independent Quinnipiac University poll said 02 July 2014 that its survey taken late last month of more than 1,400 U.S. voters showed that 33 percent put Obama at the bottom of the list of 12 presidents who have served since 1945, with 28 percent naming his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush. Tim Malloy, assistant director of Quinnipiac University's polling unit, said “He has taken a pretty big hit as far as foreign policy goes.... He has lost 10 percentage points as far as competence and the way he is handling that. So that could play pretty heavily into it because that was one of his stronger cards, foreign policy, and now it is not so strong.". Obama said on 29 April 2014 that some of these critics "... would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.... Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we've just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?... The point is that for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven't really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again."

Speaking at the West Point Academy Commencement Ceremony on 28 May 2014, Obama said "... to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution. Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences -- without building international support and legitimacy for our action; without leveling with the American people about the sacrifices required.... U.S. military action cannot be the only -- or even primary -- component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.... The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it -- when our people are threatened, when our livelihoods are at stake, when the security of our allies is in danger."

A former US intelligence and defense chief wrote that President Barack Obama "lost his way" in setting the country's military policies in the Middle East in the past few years. In a new book published Tuesday, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, Leon Panetta faults the president as too often relying "on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader." Panetta led the Central Intelligence Agency and then the Defense Department between 2009 and 2013. Panetta praised Obama for authorizing the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Panetta said the US president made several mistakes in setting policy in Iraq and Syria, which he says contributed to the Islamic State takeover of vast swaths of land in both countries in recent months. Panetta faulted Obama for not pushing former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to allow the United States to keep a residual force in the country when the U.S. withdrew its combat troops in 2011 after a nearly nine-year war. The former official also criticized Obama for rejecting his advice and that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to train and arm Syrian rebels in 2012 in their fight to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a tactic that Obama only recently adopted. In addition, Panetta said Obama should have attacked Syria when it crossed his self-described "red line" and used chemical weapons against opposition forces, rather than seeking congressional approval, which never materialized.

In a wide-ranging discourse about his foreign policies during his seven-plus years in office, Obama acknowledged to The Atlantic magazine that he is "controversial" when it comes to the use of American military power. "There's a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow," he told the magazine's correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg. "It's a playbook that comes out of the foreign policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses. Where America is directly threatened, the playbook works. But the playbook can also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions."



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