Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Don't Do Stupid" Ain't Stupid

The usual chorus of President Obama detractors got a boost from an unusual source recently. Fellow Democratic Party leader and presidential candidate in waiting, Hillary Rodham Clinton, attacked Mr. Obama's foreign policy on the grounds it is a non-policy.

The president's policy earlier got a strange name. Staffers leaked the news that inner circles have taken to defining it as, "Don't do stupid shit." For the more sensitive masses, the policy is being redefined as, "Don't do stupid stuff."

Ms. Clinton said "Don't do stupid" is not an organizing principle, and great nations need organizing principles worthy of their leadership role. I beg to differ. Ms. Clinton, in my opinion, did an acceptable job as secretary of state, but she got this one wrong.
If you win, please don't do stupid stuff, Ms. Clinton (Wikipedia)

It's about time a U.S. president decided to set aside lofty rhetoric smacking of egotistical American "exceptionalism" and adopted a realistic foreign policy standard. Remember how we fought  to "Make the world safe for democracy" and not may years later to establish the "Four Freedoms" on the planet? How are those types of policy statements working for us lately?  

We could make "Don't do stupid" prettier, of course. Something like, "Carefully analyze every foreign conflict and intervene only when it is clearly in our national interest" says the same thing, and obviously states what President Obama tries to do, but certainly there's nothing catchy about it. In this case, I like the negative "don't do" better than the positive "do." For one thing, it's more fun.

Mr. Obama, with Ms. Clinton as a top foreign policy advisor, has made some boo boos, as all presidents have. A recent one was prematurely declaring, "It's time for Assad to go." He forgot that Goldilocks could be leading Syria and it would have little effect on American interests. He also forgot that displacing strong dictators in the Muslim world often creates chaos. Is that part of the world more tranquil now than it was when Saddam ruled Iraq with an iron fist? Hardly. How's the serenity index looking in Libya nowadays?

We did what was in our interest in Syria. With Russian cooperation and good work by our more usual allies Assad's weapons of mass destruction--lethal poison gases--a true threat to the world and thus us, have been destroyed. We finally did what was in our interest in Iraq--we got out. We're back now in a limited way, a far cry from the days when we invaded the place with massive force over a pretext. 

Soon we'll be out of Afghanistan, leaving the kids to fight it out in their sandbox as they always have. In a strange turn of events, Assad may become part of a new coalition including the U.S. to help stabilize the Middle East. Things might actually work out well for a change now that the horrifically bad guys have come out of their closets and staked out some territory where the good people can shoot and bomb the crap out of them.

"Don't do stupid stuff" has saved a lot of American lives, and quite a bit of cash we can use to better advantage elsewhere. The policy isn't a return to isolationism. It's simply a venture into reality.


jhawk23 said...

Agree. I think it's a fine policy. Harry Truman, I feel sure, would applaud it, and its simple phrasing may help out future "deciders" who are prone to let others do their "thinkin'" for them.

I do think Ms. Clinton understands this better than she lets on, but of course feels the need to set some distance between herself and her old boss (not to mention, to return a few of those stabs in the back she took earlier).

Dick Klade said...

I think you are quite right about Ms. Clinton, JHawk. She is plenty smart. She might even gain a bit politically in this case, given President Obama's current low standing in the polls.

Anonymous said...

Disagree with hawk. Truman dropped the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. That action is considered by many on the left to have been overkill. Given Iran is on it's way toward the bomb, none of us can rest easy. Yes, I know the process started under FDR. My old boss' father worked on the Manhattan project.

The current White House suffers from analysis paralysis. If only they had thought through some of their earlier decisions like interfering in Libya and Egypt.

Don't do anything stupid is stupid. What is stupid anyway? Introducing Kudzu and DDT? My Dad worked on those government sponsored projects.

I don't think in the long run any more lives will be saved with Obama. We learned this lesson multiple times in the past.

I would trust Hillary with foreign policy and domestic policy much sooner than O. Read Maureen Dowd's (NYT) last opinion piece on O's domestic policy with regard to race. On the one domestic issue where he might have made a difference, he has not.

He's a disaster as a president.

Dick Klade said...

Seems to me that a president who stopped two foolish wars. succeeded in starting us on the path to universal health care. and led the way out of one of the worst economic situations in history is anything but a disaster.

Cliff Fisher said...

I have been sufficiently discouraged, that I'm not doing much to keep up with the course of events. Particularly in the Middle East and relations with the "new" Russia.

I would usually suggest Theodore's guiding principal of "speak softly and carry a big stick" In our current age of irrational lunatics... the Machiavellian policy of the administration may be appropriate. At least it seems to me to be going that direction....

Dick Klade said...

Cliff, "Don't do stupid" can seem to have a Machiavellian twist, but there is room for compassion. Machiavelli never would have advised the Prince to bomb bad guys to help a beleaguered minority trapped on a mountain avoid annihilation. There would have been no tangible benefit for the Prince. Obama did that, and there was no apparent economic or other benefit to the U.S. "Don't do stupid" doesn't rule out doing the right thing.

PiedTYpe said...

"Don't do stupid" strikes me as the proper starting point for any action by anyone. Weigh your options carefully and don't do anything hasty or ill-considered. It's one of the reasons I voted for Pres. Obama in the first place; I wanted to see a more thoughtful, intellectual approach to things. (And lord knows we needed some intellect after George Bush!)

Hillary is distancing herself from the president for the same reason many Democrats are -- he's unpopular and they see that as a possible liability to their election chances. More importantly, she needs to represent a distinct change from the current administration, something new rather than more of the same.

Dick Klade said...

Hillary is making some good strategic moves, which comes as no surprise to me. If she wins, we'll have the second consecutive super-intelligent president.

Anonymous said...

Try third. Bill was pretty intelligent too...except when it came to win min...

Kay said...

Thank you for saying it so beautifully for me, Dick! I would prefer our leaders think carefully before resorting to jumping into another war without understanding the consequences.