Critics of Obama's foreign policy forgot the past decade and alienate many Americans

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In an interview published last weekend by The Atlantic, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton purportedly distanced herself from the foreign policy doctrine of the president whom she served and who she perhaps wishes to succeed stating, "Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle. It may be a necessary brake on the actions you might take in order to promote a vision."

Earlier this summer several media outlets reported Barack Obama's foreign policy philosophy amounted to "Don't Do Stupid Sh*t." This made it easy for many to focus on palace intrigue and inside baseball analysis of what Clinton's remarks meant in relation to a potential run for the White House.

Recognizing their unproductive nature and the distraction created by her comments, Clinton's spokesperson issued a statement Tuesday walking back the criticism saying she "looks forward to hugging it out [with the President] when they see each other" at a gathering on Martha's Vineyard tonight.

The immediate seizing of these comments as somehow the ultimate swipe at the Obama administration ignores the reality that at this moment in history, Americans have a natural aversion to ill-advised military adventurism.

How quickly we forget what the Bush years brought us, beginning with the mistake of invading Iraq – at the cost of 4,488 lives and trillions of dollars. Not to mention the lives of at least a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians.

And that is just the preamble of the multi-volume encyclopedia that it would take to present a full accounting of the "stupids" of the previous administration.

The criticism of the president as too judicious in the use of military force ignore that Barack Obama is no pacifist, nor is he a noninterventionist. To the chagrin of many progressives, he clearly believes that American military power can be used as a force for good. It's why United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power and other advocates for progressive intervention remain in cabinet and senior level foreign policy positions advising the administration.

Obama clearly preferred a more aggressive approach in Syria after a chemical weapons attack on civilians last summer. Military action most thought was inevitable was scrapped after public pressure led a bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives to make direct intervention in that country's civil war a politically impossibility. Ultimately a deal with Vladimir Putin, unpopular in conservative foreign policy circles, drastically reduced Syria's chemical stockpiles. It did not end the reign of dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

However the message from public and Congressional reaction to potential military intervention in Syria was clear: there is a far tighter leash on the president when it comes to the use of force. "Don't do stupid stuff" was more than a timely foreign policy doctrine after the Bush years, it was and is a political necessity.

Those who use these remarks as a cudgel to criticize the president for being overly cautious in the use of military force not only ignore the lessons of the past decade on the costs of US foreign intervention, they risk ending up on the opposite side of a significant portion of the American public.

Ari Rabin-Havt is host of The Agenda on SiriusXM Progress 127 and author of The Benghazi Hoax. Find him on twitter.

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