In just under 30 minutes President Barack Obama gave what Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry called “a mix of Just War Theory and classic University of Chicago IR-Realist Theory.” In a standard black suit, with a modified spread collar, and crimson colored tie, the former law school lecturer had the uniform that symbolized blood and war (red seems to be the favored color of pugnacious leaders). Nevertheless, the suit was quite antithetical to the words the flowed from the podium at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. For over two years, political scientists and pundits have been struggling to define what the Obama doctrine is, or if one even exists. In 3,327 words Obama made it abundantly clear that the military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, but the ultimate goal is creating a Libya that belongs to their people, not a dictator.
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne stated that [the] “Obama Doctrine is a form of realism unafraid to deploy American power but mindful that its use must be tempered by practical limits and a dose of self-awareness.” After the grand mess known as the War in Iraq, I appreciate a Commander-in-Chief who understands that military deployment should be done thoughtfully and tactfully. With that said, President Obama’s speech last night highlighted that it is possible to stop Gaddafi’s forces in their tracks without brute military intervention. Some of the ways that the U.S. can and will do this is through strategy (it’s always nice to have a president who thinks with his brain, not with his brawn): denying the regime arms, assisting the opposition, and working collectively with other nations to hasten Gaddafi’s departure.
Although NATO has agreed to assume full responsibility in leading Libya to a new and peaceful future, the United States plans to a play a prominent role as well. As Obama stated, “real leadership creates conditions for coalition building”. Although a few hawkish legislators on both sides of the aisle and presidential hopefuls want us to go in and blow Gaddafi’s head off, Obama explained why a nuanced and multilateral response is more appropriate. Sarah Palin lambasted President Obama for not being strong enough. Maybe she should take her guns that she goes moose hunting with and take care of business herself since she is so gung ho on ousting Gaddafi right now. 8 years ago the United States went into Iraq with a cowboy mentality and no exit strategy. Unfortunately, we ended up looking more like the Dallas Cowboys than John Wayne. Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, and Ambassador John Bolton’s unfounded remarks about President Obama’s plan were nothing more than attempts to score political points for 2012.
The carnage and brutality that has transpired under the tutelage of Gaddafi is reprehensible and unconscionable. Not only has he used mercenaries to suppress dissent, but also hired tech firms to implement content-filtering software to limit the dissent that hits the Internet. His brashness and selfishness has been countered by supranational organizations like the UN Security Council who approved a no-fly zone resolution on March 17th. Mobilizing the international community for collective action is the best way to ensure that justice is served in Libya and that the United States military forces aren’t spread thin.
Gaddafi soldiers abusing prisoners (the video is very graphic)
Understanding that the quagmire in Libya has broader implications for the Middle East and North Africa, Obama did not shy away from stating that action must take place. However, unlike his predecessors, he believes that the burden to save Libya is not a U.S. burden, or even a Western burden, but a global burden. He even said that he “refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action,” a charge that has been leveled against Clinton’s responses in Bosnia and Rwanda. All the hoopla about President Obama not having the testicular fortitude to stand up is flat out fallacious. Ending the crisis in Libya is not about the 2012 presidential election in the U.S., but rather about tactfully ending a 40 year tyranny.