The Obama Doctrine: Inarticulate or disengaged?
By Jim Acosta, CNN Senior White House Correspondent
updated 8:31 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Edgartown, Massachusetts (CNN) -- It sounds like advice offered by parents to teenagers on prom night: Don't do stupid stuff. But it also is an important guiding foreign policy principle of the President of the United States.
Ever since the President uttered the phrase during an off-the-record discussion with reporters earlier this year -- the actual words were a bit saltier and later confirmed privately by administration officials -- foreign policy critics have seized on "DDSS" as a crystallization of the Obama Doctrine.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is only the latest critic of the "DDSS" comment, describing the remark in an interview with The Atlantic magazine as too simplistic.
"Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle," she said.
Clinton called Obama on Tuesday, to "make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him," her spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement. The two will meet at a party hosted by Democratic Party adviser Vernon Jordan on Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday evening, after she holds a book signing on the island.
In an interview with CNN, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes insisted that "DDSS" is not the "entire foreign policy" of the Obama administration. But he maintained the expression has substance.
"It means think carefully before you get into military interventions," he said. "I think that's a lesson of the last 10 years that the American people have internalized -- that we have to be very careful when it comes to the application of military force, that we're not putting U.S. troops in harm's way without a clear plan and limited objectives for that effort."
Rhodes said the President did not take the criticism from Clinton personally.
"I think their relationship is very resilient. They've been through so much together," he said.
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Shaped by more than a decade of war
Clinton's apparent support for a more hawkish U.S. posture comes as Obama's foreign policy has absorbed withering criticism in recent weeks. But her potentially more interventionist approach carries its own set of risks, diplomatic and political analysts caution.
" 'Don't do stupid stuff' ought to be emblazoned on the foreheads of all future presidents and secretaries of state," said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department adviser during both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Miller said "DDSS" is less a doctrine than it is a presidential mission statement that is shaped by more than a decade of war.
"Stripped to its essence, after protecting the homeland, it should be U.S. foreign policy's second commandment," he added.