Chomsky on “The Obama Doctrine”

It seems as though every US president gets his own “doctrine”—even though the foreign policy strategies of all of them are practically the same.

Chomsky has published an article articulating what exactly is “The Obama Doctrine.” Highlights follow (emphasis mine):

… the Obama Doctrine: Is the president veering toward isolationism? Or will he proudly carry the banner of exceptionalism?

The debate is narrower than it may seem. There is considerable common ground between the two positions

Between these extremes, the debate over foreign policy rages.

At the fringes, some observers reject the shared assumptions, bringing up the historical record: for example, the fact that “for nearly seven decades” the United States has led the world in aggression and subversion – overthrowing elected governments and imposing vicious dictatorships, supporting horrendous crimes, undermining international agreements and leaving trails of blood, destruction and misery.

To these misguided creatures, Morgenthau provided an answer. A serious scholar, he recognized that America has consistently violated its “transcendent purpose.”

But to bring up this objection, he explains, is to commit “the error of atheism, which denies the validity of religion on similar grounds.” It is the transcendent purpose of America that is “reality”; the actual historical record is merely “the abuse of reality.”

In short, “American exceptionalism” and “isolationism” are generally understood to be tactical variants of a secular religion, with a grip that is quite extraordinary, going beyond normal religious orthodoxy in that it can barely even be perceived. Since no alternative is thinkable, this faith is adopted reflexively.

Even serious scholarship conforms.

Engel cites Vietnam, where, … we carried out our mission to bring stability, equality and freedom by destroying three countries and leaving millions of corpses.

The Vietnam death toll continues to mount into the present because of the chemical warfare that President Kennedy initiated there – even as he escalated American support for a murderous dictatorship to all-out attack, the worst case of aggression during Obama’s “seven decades.”

Another “political persuasion” is imaginable: the outrage Americans adopt when Russia invades Afghanistan or Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. But the secular religion bars us from seeing ourselves through a similar lens.

Those still deluded by “abuse of reality” – that is, fact – might recall that the Sunni-Shiite violence resulted from the worst crime of aggression of the new millennium, the U.S. invasion of Iraq. And those burdened with richer memories might recall that the Nuremberg Trials sentenced Nazi criminals to hanging because, according to the Tribunal’s judgment, aggression is “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

no task is more urgent than to free ourselves from the religious doctrines that consign the actual events of history to oblivion and thereby reinforce our basis for further “abuses of reality.”