Eight decades ago U.S. Secretary of State Henry Stimson presented a doctrine of non-intervention in the Far East, which was based on the general trend of isolationism that characterized American foreign policy between the two world wars. Today, when the United States is considered a hegemonic superpower, whose interests and impact stretch the world over, Uncle Sam seems to want to restrict himself as much as possible to the American sphere and minimize the U.S.'s military involvement in any crisis or threat.
While the "Obama doctrine," as accurately outlined by the American president in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly last week, is not a carbon copy of its 1920s and 1930s counterparts, its implications for the Middle East are reminiscent of the Stimson doctrine and its miserable "standing on the sidelines" approach.
If we were to strip Obama's speech of its flowery shell, we would find an updated version of the Stimson doctrine, this time for the Near East. Just as the six powers gear up to resume their nuclear negotiations with Iran, the American president has proven that he has no "bullets" in his magazine and that the limitations placed on his strategic leeway may soon turn what he called a "just cause for [military] action" into no more that a bad check.
Not only is the precedent set by Obama on the Syrian issue likely to prevent him from taking any action even when the red lines drawn in other arenas are crossed, but Obama himself reiterated the limits of U.S. power and the need to pursue multi-faceted diplomatic avenues instead of unilateral forceful action.
What we are witnessing is a gross deviation from the standards set by the American giant's conduct since it assumed its position as the ultimate player in the international arena.
While previous presidential doctrines sampled those introduced by President Harry Truman in 1947 and President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957, which reflected a broad commitment for intervention based on ethical and moral values as well as strategic needs, the essence of the "Obama doctrine" eloquently outlines the reasons for which the American Eagle can no longer shoulder the burden of global leadership by itself.
And so, once the White House presented the international community with its waiver of hegemony, the multi-faceted diplomatic process with Iran has been launched. Paradoxically, it is vis-à-vis Iran, which has been exhausted by the painful sanctions imposed on it by the West, that the U.S. finds itself without so much as a tiny stick in its tool box, to use as a deterrent or as punitive measures.
U.S. deterrence has withered away precisely because the military option was sidelined and then effectively blocked by the "Obama doctrine." A tangible expression of this weakness was evident during Iranian President Hasan Rouhani's visit to New York: While the situation was innately asymmetric, as Rouhani is the one in a position of weakness given the crippling affects of sanctions on Iran's economy, in reality it was Obama who blinked first.
Beyond the appeasing message of his speech at the U.N., the American president was overly eager to meet with his Iranian counterpart, even if only for an impromptu duet of "half a meeting." Rouhani, on the other hand -- and despite his speech and his charm offensive -- has decided to play "hard to get." He opted not to take part in an event that would have mandated he shake hands with the "great Satan" prematurely, sufficing instead with a telephone conversation with Obama. The 44th president of the United States, it seems, has yet to free himself of the American tradition that underscores the importance of summit meetings, believing that direct interaction between leaders can immediately tumble the walls of hostility and suspicion between their nations.
One can only hope that despite this presidential weakness and despite the euphoria currently enveloping Washington and its Western counterparts, Iran would still be judged based on its concrete actions regarding uranium enrichment -- and not by the lip service paid by its leaders.