“Don’t Do Stupid Things” vs. Having a Strategy

Everyone has been knocking the Obama Administration ever since Hillary Clinton commented critically that “Don’t do stupid things” is not a strategy. Knocking Obama is fine with me, but most of the knockers have got it wrong. The problem is not so much that he has no strategy, as that heĀ is doing stupid things.

Now, some of the stupid things — particularly the invasion of Iraq — were not his doing. But some were:

  • Destabilizing Libya. Look where it got us; in late July 2014 the US had to abandon its own embassy in Tripoli because the staff could not be kept there safely; it is now occupied by an Islamist military group. So we went from a stable but oppressive government to a chaotic ungovernable territory.
  • Destabilizing Syria. Whatever the right thing to do about ISIS is, it seems pretty clear that it would not have been able to grow so strong had it not been for the armed rebellion in Syria, which gave it room to grow.
  • Encouraging a coup in Ukraine. What a great idea! Get the pro-European forces to throw out the elected President, rather than waiting a few months for a special election he’d agreed to. Worked pretty well, didn’t it? Crimea annexed to Russia, much of Eastern Ukraine occupied by opposition forces with Russian support.

I could go on, but that’s probably enough to make my point. The common element of these “stupid things,” even from the viewpoint of US capitalism, is a failure to understand the real limits of US power, and the resources available to US opponents. The result: interventions that made things worse. Stupid things.