There is a new sheriff in town. He has decided to round up the rascals in Lybia. President Obama is not inclined to act on feelings of insecurity – as we witnessed in the immediate past Administration. Presidential Doctrine has been a subject of debate for about as long as there have been Presidents. We are led to believe that these packages of operational ideology are rooted in rational thought. Quantifying lists are presented, often in the manner of Letterman’s Top Ten – what exactly defines the need to act? Even with a rational list in hand, sometimes events are interpreted through past emotional baggage.
Doctrine: ‘a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of beliefs’ – from the Merriam Webster Dictionary.
President Obama seems to be a person rooted in a confident self-image. He does not have to act in order to feel more secure in his person. He does not have to respond to emotional flareups. We are talking about cognitive behavioral psychology. People find themselves in trouble when a negative event occurs in their life, the event is filtered through a poorly developed self image, emotions are stirred, and action is taken based on irrational thought. Examples can be seen on both the left and right of political dogma.
President George W. Bush once said of Saddam Hussein, “He tried to kill my Dad!” Many of us felt that the assault on Iraq was a personal vendetta of the Bush Dynasty – action based on emotion rather than on rational thought. Understand that this behavior is quite common in American politics. There is a get-even mentality prevalent in many political camps – political advisers understand the use of intimidation to keep the troops in line. An example might be the irritation of the Clintons when Carolyn Kennedy supported President Obama in the democratic primaries. Later, when Hillary left her New York Senate seat to become Secretary of State, the Governor of New York was faced with appointing Clinton’s replacement. Carolyn Kennedy stepped forward and asked for that appointment. The story is that Bill Clinton, a powerhouse in New York politics, torpedoed Kennedy’s appointment as retribution for her early support of Barack Obama. There really are consequences to life choices. Right or wrong – that is the way it is.
It is one thing to emotionally maneuver in local State politics – it is quite another to emotionally maneuver the most powerful military force ever conceived by man. One might think that the oppression and military assault on the people of Lybia by their insane government leader Kaddaaafeyyy might play right into the hands of the bleeding-heart Obama. This man of the welfare streets of Chicago, this advocate of good government intervention in crimes against humanity, this man who pushes social justice as central to his political ideology – this man had all the internal emotional inclination to destroy the tyrant Kaddaaafeyyy. What did he do? He thought about the situation before acting on his emotions. He instructed his advisers, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to find a rational response to an irrational leader.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been around for some time, actively used for perhaps the last thirty years. Virginia Satir and Scott Peck aside, Cognitive Behavior dominates the couches of modern therapists. It is not complicated at the global level. The notion is that we always act based on some thought. We think, then we feel, and then we act. Problems arise when our self-image, our self-concept, is distorted by years of adversity. The manner we perceive any event is filtered through our self-image. It is the old story of optimism versus pessimism. Two people witness a child riding their bicycle into traffic – the child is struck by an oncoming vehicle, one witness becomes enraged and blames the vehicle driver, the other witness calmly dials 911 on his cell phone and begins rudimentary first aid on the child. Crowds of bystanders gather. Some weep. Some shout. Some shout and shake their fists. Some look for opportunity to help. Each is interpreting the event through the filter of their own life experience.
After September 11, 2001, George Bush and Dick Cheney interpreted every piece of intelligence through the prism of fear. If the intelligence did not fit their world view they asked the intelligence gatherers to get more information – and get it until you can support our emotional interpretation of the world. Bush and Cheney became masters of spreading the fear – hoping to influence the reasoning of the populace. There was cause for fear – those airplanes really did knock down those buildings. But to spread that fear around, contaminating rational thought, resulted in poor decision making. Fear is not a sound basis for a Foreign Policy Doctrine.
President Obama is the guy with the cell phone, administering first aid, calmly going about the business of the most positive result.
Because President Obama does not jump up on his soap box and scream about the falling sky some interpret his behavior as failure of leadership – the presumption is that Obama is slow to make decisions. He may be. And I, for one, am grateful for his calm deliberation. President Obama has the same emotional set as all humans. President allows his emotion to influence action. But President Obama first thinks with an open mind about events and consequences.
President Obama’s Doctrine: Think, then feel, then act.