Benghazi Exposes Failures of Obama Doctrine

Helle Dale /

The laundry room at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo: MCT/Newscom)


President Obama’s aggressive response to legitimate questions about Benghazi at his news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron—calling these important investigations a “sideshow” and a “political circus”—exposed an Administration with little substantive argument on its side.

U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, and the Obama Doctrine lies at the heart of the problem. Scholars like the Hoover Institution’s Bruce Thornton have offered analysis of the Obama Doctrine on foreign affairs, describing its underpinnings as political expediency mixed with classic liberalism.

In a series of papers and panel discussions, The Heritage Foundation itself has explored and tracked the Obama Doctrine. Four main tenets were identified by authors Kim H. Holmes and James J. Carafano.

In the name of making the United States “an equal partner” rather than an “exceptional” nation, Obama has sought remake American foreign policy. This has involved:

  1. Ratification of more treaties and reliance on international organizations more often to deal with global crises and security concerns like nuclear weapons, often before turning to our traditional friends and allies;
  2. Emphasis on diplomacy and “soft power” instruments such as summits and foreign aid to promote its aims and downplay military might;
  3. Adoption of a more humble attitude in state-to-state relations; and
  4. Playing a more restrained role on the international stage.

Regrettably, the consequence of this smaller U.S. global footprint (which goes along with a much more intrusive domestic policy agenda) is that the Obama foreign policy has left terrorists emboldened, not defeated. This past year has seen the attacks and protests multiply against U.S. missions abroad—in Benghazi and at U.S. embassies around the world. At home, we experienced the worst terrorist attack since September 11, 2001, at the Boston Marathon.

Soft power has not advanced the cause of political reform or peace in the Middle East following the Arab uprisings. And regimes like those of Syria, North Korea, and Iran display little fear of consequences from a U.S. in global retreat.