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Do Americans Agree with the ‘Obama Doctrine’?


Count me among the many conservatives whose response to Barack Obama’s Nobel speech was one of pleasant surprise.

As president, Obama has tacked to the left on domestic policy. Yet on foreign policy, Obama remained a mystery until today. A lack of serious troop reductions in Iraq, a complicated quest to close Gitmo, and the recent increase in troops in Afghanistan gave those on both sides of the partisan aisle issues to gripe about.

Thursday’s speech gave clarity and shape to Obama’s foreign-policy worldview. Some are saying that the speech unveiled the “Obama Doctrine,” and conservative luminaries such as Newt Gingrich have praised it.

But where do Americans stand on Obama’s newly articulated philosophy? It is far too early to have solid data about public reaction to specific statements from Obama’s speech, but recent polls offer some hints.

Earlier this month, Gallup found that even one-third of those who favor Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan think it is unlikely to work. (In July, Gallup reported that 36 percent of Americans believe intervening in Afghanistan was a mistake in the first place.) Gallup also asked if respondents were concerned about the costs of the war, and if they were concerned about how a troop withdrawal would affect U.S. security. Democrats and Independents were more worried about the costs of the war than the impact of withdrawal on our security, while Republicans held the opposite view.

Yet a war-weary public, at times egged on by Democrats, is less excited about the sorts of policies that Obama now seems more inclined to support. The job of being commander in chief is no picnic, and it appears Obama is adapting to the realities of his role as leader of the U.S. military. Yet as he moves away from the rhetoric he used on the campaign trail, he will also have to do significant work to bring Americans — particularly members of his own party — on board.

– Kristen Soltis is the director of policy research at the Winston Group, a strategy and polling firm in Washington, D.C.