Pity Barack Obama. If ever there was a president who was elected to deal with the economy, it was he. His national security missions, per the campaign, were to heave the gearshift into reverse in Iraq, stop losing in Afghanistan and fade stage left. Other than trumpeting a pointless arms control deal with the Russians or jawboning the "peace process," Obama's main aim was to keep foreign policy on the back burner so he could keep his domestic agenda front and center.
Obama may not want to have a doctrine, but he has no choice.
But the world, so unpleasantly intrusive, has contrived to wedge the president into that most awful of places: between the rock of reality and the hard place of his own rhetoric. So we are still in Iraq, have surged in Afghanistan, and have now gone to war with a third foul Muslim despot. He has done the right thing in each case, but obviously reluctantly.
George W. Bush was in much the same place when he came to power in 2001. The 9/11 attacks forced him into a role he would never have otherwise embraced. He rose to the mission, at times in incompetent fashion, but nonetheless with a sense of his own responsibility as president of the United States.
In contrast, Barack Obama remains the most reluctant of chief executives. He does not want a doctrine. He does not want to shape the future. And while he eventually dons the mantle of American presidents before him, he does so hesitantly -- hoping others, be it the U.N., the Arab League or Paris, take the burden away. All of which would be tolerable if the presidency required nothing more than being a community organizer on a grand scale. But it doesn't. And the sooner Barack Obama comes to terms with the real nature and responsibilities of the office, the better.
Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI.