A ‘lean back’ chair for President Obama

by Rashmee

Posted on January 30, 2013



You’ve got to hand it to foreign policy wonks. They’re able to mint new doctrines and phrases despite the decided challenges of having familiar, well-worn world issues to work with. Iraq, Afghanistan, al Qaeda, Mali, Libya. The new is but a re-run of the old. So John Arquilla, professor of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, is arguing that lean back is the smartest way for the US to stay relevant, stay engaged and not spend too much blood and treasure on the high politics of world affairs. In short, lean back is the perfect foreign policy for hard times. President Obama has coolly instituted “a very cool doctrine,” says Professor Arquilla,  and it’s “very much in the spirit of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s concept of finding the middle way between sharply opposing views… the Obama doctrine respects the need to remain engaged in the high politics of world affairs, but it does so in an extremely economical fashion.”

Perhaps President Obama should order the lean back chair for the Oval Office.

President Obama has tilted US foreign policy to a lean back doctrine
The lean back chair that might suit America’s Commander-in-Chief?

It’s supposed to be popular in a certain part of China and has a fairly low seat, with the back inclining at about 45 degrees from the vertical.

The lean back doctrine is refashioned as ‘limited intervention’ in Abu Muqawama’s blog for the Centre for a New American Security. But it is more cautious about the challenges this will pose for “power-projection”.

That’s a valid point. To some, lean back might equal lean away. Remember ‘quote king’ Paul Boese’s pithy commentary on keeping one’s balance despite an altered centre of gravity: “We come into this world head first and go out feet first; in between it is all a matter of balance.”

Balance is an interesting subject. It’s worth noting that the center of gravity can be located at an empty point in space, such as the center of a hollow ball and it can even be completely outside an object, such as for a donut or a curved banana.

Except, that wouldn’t be lean back or lean away – it would just be going away.


Rashmee has lived and worked in several countries in the past decade, including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Tunisia, the UAE, US and UK

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