Hussain Abdul-Hussain

The Obama Doctrine: mimic China

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping review the Fife and Drum Corps during a State Arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on 25 September 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

President Obama has undermined the post-1945 world order as envisioned by the legendary President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR). Amateurism, nonchalance and apathy have all been cited as Obama's motives. But to understand his foreign policy, one has to delve into Obama's economic understanding of the world.


Unlike tested-and-failed, trickle-down, small-government economics, Obama correctly believes that technology is changing economies the same way it transformed nations from agrarianism to industrialism in the early 20th century. In the president's mind, the meteoric rise of the American superpower, back then, was not only due to industrial and financial entrepreneurship, but also because of federal policies such as the New Deal and the Great Society, which accompanied the technological and economic transformation. 


And because economic supremacy requires an active US government that pries foreign markets open and supervises domestic transformation, Barack Obama believes that his mission is to keep America economically strong and thus militarily powerful.


Remember that when Obama was campaigning for the presidency, American power was in free fall. The economy had taken a hit, the military was bogged down in two brutal wars, and China was overtaking America in almost every economic indicator, becoming the world's top exporter, importer and consumer of natural resources. Obama also saw America's allies cozying up to the new rising power, as Beijing seemed determined to transform its newfound wealth into military and technological power.


Obama's plan, therefore, has been to regain the top spot. He has sometimes tumbled, like when he bankrolled the downfall of the solar venture Solyndra. But in general, Obama's economic policies have proven effective. And even though US growth has remained anemic at an average of two percent, unemployment has fallen from 10 to five percent, the deficit has been cut drastically, debt is growing at a slower pace and America has regained its confidence as the world's economic leader.


Obama also seems to have internalized a fundamental Chinese policy. While America, Russia and Europe were fighting over the Middle East, China's companies were mining Africa and extending railroads across South America. Yet for all its economic might, China's record in leading on world issues — whether resolving conflicts or funding development — has been abysmal. 


China has a mercantile government that uses its power to advance its economic interests worldwide, oblivious to global problems. If the world is at war, China will sell the contending parties bullets. If the world is on fire, it will sell firetrucks and extinguishers. 


Germany, the world's third-largest exporter next to the US and China, also sees countries as markets rather than democracies or autocracies. When Iran suppressed the Green Revolution in 2009, Germany's Siemens sold the regime equipment to decode secure communications between protesters. 


Turkey, too, has maintained trade links with troublemaking governments, such as its rival, Iran. When America was leading a UN effort to impose sanctions on Iran, Turkey and Brazil used their membership in the Security Council to take Iran's side, perhaps hoping to cash in on their position later with lucrative Iranian contracts.


The Palestinian Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) Movement has been successful in getting many big European and American groups to cut Israel out economically as a means of pressuring the country to end its settlement building. But boycotting Israel has proven ineffective, especially with China's trade with Israel growing while Turkey and Russia buy Israeli drones.


Perhaps Obama realized that with America's share in the world economy shrinking from one-third to one-fifth, the US risks annihilation if it insists on tying its principles — enshrined in the post-war new world order — to its economic policies. Instead, Obama has used American power to advance its economic interests, which are the mainstay of its power in the first place.


Obama has signed at least five treaties: three bilateral with South Korea, Myanmar and Cuba; one nuclear multilateral with Iran; and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Obama’s treaties give American exports new markets, but often at the expense of human rights and democracy. If China looks at Iran and sees a market rather than a nuclear threat, why should America see differently?


When FDR constructed the UN, he wanted to replace old empires and their brutal rivalries with a new world order. With Obama, America is neither an empire nor a sponsor of a world order that ensures peace and prosperity.


The effects of the Obama Doctrine are still unknown. Early indicators show that while China's rise is leveling off, America is growing, though not roaring. Obama has decoupled the new world order from American power. The result, so far, shows a world plunging into chaos, and that cannot be good for America or any other country.


Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington Bureau Chief Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai. He tweets @hahussain

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping review the Fife and Drum Corps during a State Arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on 25 September 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

Perhaps Obama realized that with America's share in the world economy shrinking from one-third to one-fifth, the US risks annihilation if it insists on tying its principles — enshrined in the post-war new world order — to its economic policies."

  • Qadi

    GARTHID: Is this the Economic Freedom Index of the "objective" Heritage Foundation that you are citing? Where did you get your GDP per capita numbers from because they are clearly flawed. Canda is way below the US, and even if it were not, its population is barely 10 percent of the US and its economic mainstay is natural resources, unlike America's economy that depends on a diverse base that includes innovation, services and manufacturing, whose numbers doubled under Obama. From an economic perspective, a right wing like you must be praising Obama for the TPP that he got thanks to Republican majority in Congress. The point of the article is not the US economy, but how America can further its economic interests without firing a single bullet, just like China is doing.

    October 13, 2015

  • Garthid

    Humble? Signs of humility? Economic Power? I agree with Hanibaal that the U.S. has tried to export democracy to no avail. But should the U.S. become an isolationist country? What would have happened in the Balkans if the U.S. had "stayed out"? Is there a time to intervene? Where? When? President Obama is an egocentric man. The United States per capita GDP now trails Canada. This would have been unthinkable under any other president. The U.S. has dropped nine spots on the Economic Freedom Index. We're listed now as "mostly free". The labor participation rate is the lowest it's been in nearly forty years. The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rates in the world, our manufacturing sector has been decimated and GDP growth is a tepid 2% or so. How exactly does this show that Mr. Obama gravitas when it comes to economic policy?

    October 13, 2015

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Obama inherited a collapsed US economy from Bush; he averted the disaster of a depression. Unemployment was 12% when he took office; it is now at 5%, the lowest in 40 years. Housing sales are back to where they were before the Bush economic disaster. Obama ended two useless wars that cost the Treasury 5 trillion dollars. The deficit caused by the Bush years and its reckless wars is slowly shrinking, thanks to Obama. More Americans are working today than were working when Bush left. More Americans have health insurance today because of Obama's restructuring of the barbaric health care of the Republicans and their friends in the insurance and medical industries. Thanks to Obama, the US is leading, rather than obstructing, international efforts on climate change. He is the first US president with the gonads to stand up to the barbarians in Netanyahu's Israel, and to the other barbarians the Saudis, both of whom Bush and the Republicans so love. And please spare us your political bigotry: The US has always had, long before Obama, the highest corporate taxes. The manufacturing sector began collapsing long before Obama took office for no less reason that the flight of US corporations during the Bush years to China. In fact, Obama rescued General Motors and with it the entire US automobile industry, from total collapse. Obama is leading the charge for renewable energy sources, whereas the Republican neanderthals want the US to remain suckling on the Saudi nipple for oil. Now, ponder all these achievements and many more before you spew your cryptically racist hatred of the man, and consider where you or your children would be today if Bush or the like were in office instead: Yes, fighting on the ground and getting blown up and maimed by Syrian IEDs, and spending another 3 trillion US taxpayer dollars in the process.

    October 13, 2015

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    I applaud Mr. Abdul-Hussain for an objective, judgment-free and insult-free opinion on Obama's policies. The fact is Obama is a rare breed of American leaders: He is smart. His focus on America as an economic power rather than the world's policeman is a sign of humility and an abandonment of its self-inflated righteousness and bigotry: No more pompous pretenses of exporting democracy, and defending liberties and human rights, all of which have failed in the past. People who want freedom from tyranny have to fight it and earn it themselves; that is the only way for such gains to be sustainable on the long run. Just as assistance to third world underdeveloped countries has changed from giving them food to giving them the tools to grow their own food, Obama's new foreign policy encourages countries to earn their own freedom rather than depend on colonial powers to come and help them and in the process hold them hostage. We are still living the consequences of America's export of democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. We ought to thank Obama for refusing to intervene in Syria. Let us instead watch the Russians get spanked there.

    October 13, 2015