Barack Obama and the Costanza approach

In a famous episode of Seinfeld, George Costanza concludes that every instinct he’s had, every decision he’s made, has been wrong and that he should henceforth do the opposite of what he had routinely been doing. He implements this new philosophy and promptly manages to entice an attractive woman to go out with him by introducing himself as unemployed and living with his parents. He then gets a job with the New York Yankees by telling off its imperious and temperamental owner, George Steinbrenner.

We’ve long thought President Obama should adopt the Costanza approach in matters of national security and simply do the opposite of what his instincts tell him to do, since his policies toward Iran, Israel, ISIS, Russia, and others seem textbook studies of how not to conduct foreign policy. But Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent Atlantic article, “The Obama Doctrine,” relating a series of interviews with the president, makes it clear that a form of “Oppositism” or “Antitheticalism” (if you will permit a slight butchering of the English language) already defines Obama’s foreign policy. For Obama’s foreign policy is less about what he stands for than what he rejects—namely, much of what America has stood for and done over many decades. Obama’s doctrine, such as it is, consists of a few simplistic ideas that emerge from a shallow and ideological disdain for the American past. It marks a radical departure from the outlook of every recent American president, Democrat and Republican.