Patrick Jackson at the Duck covers some of this in his discussion of Doctrine in foreign policy:
But -- and this is the really important thing that Chollet and Goldgeier miss -- I'm not sure that this is the real problem. Indeed, I cannot quite imagine a doctrine-less foreign policy, because even "taking cases on their individual merits" is a doctrine. Doctrine in the sense I have been using it here is not a straightjacket; it's a cultural resource. Not all resources are created equal, and not all resources lend themselves equally well to all possible courses of action. Militant exceptionalism may be a problem, but not simply because it's a doctrine -- it's a problem because it encourages counterproductive courses of action, and because it's immoral (and come on, be honest: when push comes to shove, if you're not a fan of militant exceptionalism, at root it's a moral objection, a sense that we just shouldn't be doing these things or that we just shouldn't be that kind of a country -- just admit it and stop trying to pretend that your objections are purely derived from means-ends calculations, and we'll all feel better). And the solution is to replace that doctrine with a more acceptable one -- and that means a new or re-engineered commonplace or set of commonplaces.
What we need is not some fanciful doctrine-less world, where everyone treats every case purely "on its merits" (whatever that actually means in practice, because one always needs a theoretical perspective or sensibility, whether explicit or tacit, from which to ascertain the "merits" of a case . . . and that perspective undoubtedly contains just the sort of commonplace notions standing in need of specification that are characteristic of an officially-proclaimed foreign-policy doctrine). What we need is better doctrine.