AMERICAN STRATEGY AND THE CONTROVERSY OVER  “DON’T DO STUPID STUFF'”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has started attacking President Obama's "don't do stupid stuff" strategy.
President Obama’s “don’t do stupid stuff” foreign policy has come under fire recently.

By Harry C. Blaney III

Recently there seems to have been a movement to attack President Obama over his attempt to explain in shorthand how important it is to not act in ways that contribute to or worsen a problem. While others (the usual neo-con suspects) initiated the criticism, Hillary Clinton this week decided to add to the pile with her statements in an Atlantic article. Now, others have joined her, perhaps hoping to ride on her coattails to juicy positions in her hoped-for administration.

Most critics have argued that Obama’s “don’t do stupid stuff” off-hand phrase is no strategy to be guided by. Let me be direct about all of this: that phrase is a critical element of a wise and prudent strategy. It is in sharp contrast to the earlier Bush II and Cheney strategy of “do stupid things and do them repeatedly and kill lots of American troops in the process and achieve no good outcome.” Perhaps that is what the President’s critics think of as real strategy.

One added recent criticism has been at Secretary Kerry’s crisis mitigating trips around the world. Some suggest he would do better to stay at home and mind “the shop.” This has been yet another example of the clueless and mindless perspective of those who care nothing for the tragedy and costs of the world’s many upheavals.

Secretary Kerry’s critics forget that it is largely at the highest levels that we can act effectively. It is America’s unique position in global affairs, as well Kerry’s extensive experience, that makes him our choice for peacemaker and “fireman-in-chief.” And he is the best possible envoy we have because he has a wise strategic vision and is in sync with the president. It would be a waste, in my opinion, to have him sit in a chair on the seventh floor of the Department of State and decide management issues. We have a department filled with excellent officials who can do the same and as well. Having served three Secretaries as a policy planner and many more as a diplomat and official, I can testify that we have never had a better team and a wiser set of perspectives. This is a turbulent time and a period when we need these skills the most.

The same people who criticize Obama likely have no clue what real “grand strategy” is and, for most, have neither practiced nor studied it.  But, they have a long history of getting things very wrong and, to this day, have only one plan of action: “make war.” Yet, they do it without a clue as to whether it is the best tool, whether it is counterproductive, whether there might be a backlash, and whether there are possibly better approaches. They do not even know how to organize an effective “war” that addresses the real fundamental problem.

As to the controversy that former Senator and Secretary of State Clinton has stirred up: she would have done better to set forth a strategic vision of her own, rather than playing political games at the expense of Obama’s beleaguered administration. The President has a very thought-out strategic vision and values which have served that nation far better than the “I don’t know what to do, so let’s go to war” tactic.

At a later point this blog will set out an analysis of what Obama and Secretary Kerry’s tactical and strategic stance seems to be. We will also discuss what is required of any “grand strategy” that hopes to provide a practical framework in which to achieve American (or any nation’s) goals and values.

We welcome your comments!

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