Doctrines And Syndromes

The historical and current states of international relations for the United States reveal many things. Among them is a curious separation of terms. For American presidents, there is a Doctrine. A Truman Doctrine existed, as did a Reagan Doctrine, a Carter Doctrine, even the originating Monroe Doctrine. But for the American people and the American public, there is a Syndrome. The Vietnam Syndrome, for example, and the Iraq Syndrome, which I saw referenced today. I suppose one might even refer to the Civil War Syndrome as a dynamic among the respective regional segments of the American population.

The Doctrine is a more or less unified thought that guides how a presidential administration tends to view the world. The Syndrome does much the same thing for the public at large, though surely the word is more negative in tone and feeling.

As you read about major foreign policy or international events in American history, look for the interplay between¬†Doctrine and Syndrome–they interact together, allowing and enabling on one hand while limiting and restricting on the other. And in your own leadership, look for the expressions of this same point. It’s there: a leader leads within boundaries formed by followers’ experiences, deciding when or if ever to challenge them.