The Obama Doctrine

The new New York Times interview with President Obama is an interesting read.  I am glad that he is our leader at this point.  He explains what his approach to Iran and other countries is.  He lays out his way of thinking about countries that have been deemed enemies of the U.S.  It’s being called the Obama doctrine.  It seems more than sane to me.  Here is a small snippet:

“You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies.”

And later:

The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”

The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?”

This does not mean that his foreign policy is perfect.  I still am highly wary of his use of drones over the term of his presidency.  I also don’t like the way that whistle blowers have been treated.  However, the main policies that he lays forth seem to me that they are highly reasonable.  He seems to understand our place in the world.  We are militarily the most powerful country in the world.  Why couldn’t we try new approaches, especially when the downside, given our technological and military position, is small.  His approach to Cuba and Iran, at least at this point, seem like victories for peace.

I highlight two of the quotes that Huffington Post also highlighted.  

The Good Within Reach

I was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals last night and there is a scene right after Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.  Even though it was obviously a controversial measure at the time, a lot of the people in Washington had a joyous celebration that evening.  I remember feeling really happy recently when the news came on and it said that we were establishing a diplomatic relationship with Cuba.  A little door, once closed, now opened a sliver, with the possibility that there might just be a little more understanding between two countries.  I remember feeling happy when Obama was elected for the first time, or when Obama himself put an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Not because I was under any illusions that racism or bigotry had been destroyed, or that it was game over for injustice, or that white straight people like me should pat ourselves on the back.  It was because, whatever you think of the outcome of Obama’s Presidency, the world had become slightly more tolerant and inclusive, even if reality was and remains more complicated.  These were still pluses for civilization.

I keep being amazed by this new Pope.  Instead of spending most of the time focusing on petty internal religious doctrine, like his predecessors often did, he seems to be trying to make the world a more equal, tolerant, and just place.  Although I’m not Catholic and will never join a church of any kind, I find what he is doing to be appealing.

There is a quote that is supposedly by Lincoln himself, where he says, “When I do good, I feel good.  When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”  Now in all honesty, I can’t figure out if Lincoln actually said that, or if it is one of those quotes that has just been attributed to him over time.  Especially with the internet these days it is hard to tell.  But no matter, anyway you cut it it is a great quote.  (Lincoln was known to be a skeptic for much of his life, even if his views did change slightly towards the end of his life.  That still does not mean that he said the above quote.)

I don’t understand why more people don’t get that actually doing right by other people can actually make you feel good as well.   It can actually lead to the happiness that is so often missing in our lives.  Who do you think feels better at the end of the day:  The person that helps a gay couple get married, or someone that spent all their political time and energy getting the tax rate down 1%?

Now there is a funny line.  I’m not talking about feeling self-satisfaction for the kind of thing people should be doing anyway.  Like just because you decided to not be a racist, doesn’t mean you should get some reward.  I mean more the kind of pride and happiness one feels from doing a good job.  Like you can either go into a job and schlep your way through it, not hurting anyone, but not really helping anyone.  Or you can do the best that you can do and take some kind of pride in your work.  You don’t feel pride because you showed up one day and worked harder than normal.  I’m talking about a pride that comes from continuous effort to do the right thing, no matter what the circumstances.

You would think that more people would get addicted to kindness, would take pride in seeing the world become a better place, would feel happy about progress even if they themselves didn’t play any roll in it. Yet, I am never surprised when I see some kind of barbarous cruelty on TV.  Meanwhile when I saw the news about Cuba, I was not only happy, but I was flat out surprised.  Why are we so often incapable of seeing the good that is possible, that is just around the corner, within reach?

Cuba, The Interview, and Freedom

My kid brother came to town and on top of it I have been a little under the weather with whatever cold is passing through town.  Because of this posting has been a little slow.  I’ve been paying attention to the news in bits and pieces.

I’m extremely happy that the U.S. establishing a diplomatic relationship with Cuba.  Our policy was outdated and clearly didn’t achieve anything anyway.  I think this is something that will be looked upon well in the history of the Obama Administration.  This is a victory for peace and sanity.  Anything that leads to a more open world where there is at least the chance that people can solve their differences through conversation is a good thing.

On the other end of the spectrum the whole thing surrounding the movie The Interview is mind boggling.  Did we really allow a movie to not be released because of fear of what might happen?  It kind of reminds me of the whole take your shoes off at the airport thing.  I have traveled a lot in recent years and we are the only country that I have been to that makes you take your shoes off at the airport.  One time someone had explosives in their shoes that didn’t even go off, and we are forever allowing ourselves to be hassled by it.  I think we need to have a serious conversation about freedom in this country.  The word freedom is too often a mask for allowing stupidity to run ramped.  If you want to live in a free and open society you have to allow for a certain manageable amount of risk.  We’ll allow ourselves to be scared into taking our shoes off at the airport when the odds of you dying in a suicide attack are slim and none.  We’ll allow ourselves to be scared into limiting free expression, yes even if it is goofy comedy.  Meanwhile we’ll shout freedom driving down the road in a giant vehicle while pumping pollutants into the air, which over the long run is proven to harm a lot more people in real and tangible ways.  We champion freedom when the results actually hurt other people and run scared when the things that actually constitute what freedom should be about are challenged.