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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Obama Doctrine Examined

President Barack Obama finally spoke to the American people tonight after committing our nation to a military campaign in Libya 9 days ago.  It has been standard practice for Presidents to address the nation at the time they begin a war.  Obama instead, kept to his schedule and went on a South American trip to increase our exports by agreeing to fund and purchase oil from Brazil's off-shore oil fields and without visiting two nations, Panama and Colombia who have pending Free Trade Agreements that this administration has chosen to ignore.  It was an odd trade mission and an even odder moment to take it.

During the run up to this speech, critics from both ends of the spectrum were asking for greater clarification of the essential goal of the mission, his justification for bypassing Congress and what national interest Libya held for America.  On Sunday the administration sent Secretaries Clinton and Gates to several of the morning new shows to answer some of these questions.

Under questioning by Jake Tapper on ABC's This Week, Secretary Gates answer to the question of whether Libya posed an actual or imminent threat, was

"No, no...It was not — it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about.  The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake."
Later in the interview, Tapper in asking Secretary Clinton why the administration did not go to Congress, prefaced his question by noting that both Clinton and Obama as Senators stated that President Bush would need to have Congressional authorization before acting against Iran. 

"Well, we would welcome congressional support but I don't think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago.”

With the foreshadowing of an Obama Doctrine cast about on Sunday, the President stood before the American people to lay the specifics out for us.  He began by stating the steps that led to his decision to use force in Libya.  He summed up those efforts thusly,

"To summarize, then: in just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a No Fly Zone with our allies and partners." 
The President left unsaid how such a great coalition could be assembled while he lacked the time and ability to give Congress for debate on this action.  As for the coalition itself, it is far smaller as compared to those that Bush I, Bush II and Clinton assembled during their Presidencies.

Obama then went to the 'declare Victory' section where he said,

"I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation, and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge." 
Rather than speaking to the ultimate goals of the action, he simply noted the limited scope of America's involvement.

In 'fulfilling that pledge', the U.S. is handing over leadership to NATO.  We are of course the largest part of NATO, so this handoff will look much more like a flea-flicker, a trick-play where the ball ends up back in the hands of the quarterback.  And make no mistake, the U.S. will continue to be the quarterback of this operation.  The world looks to us in their time of need, because we are the only one with the equipment and resources needed to come to their aid.  That hasn't changed no matter what the President may say.

On the goals of the mission, President Obama maintained that we will abide by the strict limits of the UN Resolution authorizing the No-Fly Zone.  While we will continue to seek Gaddafi's ouster through non-military means, we will not seek regime change similar to Iraq.  At this point Obama made the inaccurate statement that regime change in Iraq took eight years.  Regime change in Iraq took a matter of weeks.  The other seven plus years involved a process of nation building and terrorist fighting, that would not exist in Libya.  In fact,
reports are that the rebels we are aiding are possibly led by Al Queda operatives.

I have always maintained that the moment the U.S. chose to act against Gaddafi, it committed itself to taking him out.  Now that we have acted, every moment Gaddafi is free our citizens are in danger.  He has shown the ability to strike against us in the past and there is no reason to believe he is not even now seeking such 'revenge'.  For our own safety, he must go and go quickly.  But the President feels otherwise.

Finally, the President brings us to the heart of his policy.

Let me close by addressing what this action says about the use of America’s military power, and America’s broader leadership in the world, under my presidency.
There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security – responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act – but the burden of action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.

Here he lays out the Obama Doctrine in a 3 point policy.
  1. A threat to humanity or security exists (natural disaster, genocide, peacekeeping, security, commerce) and,
  2. The U.S. has a unique ability and duty to help in such a situation, then,
  3. The U.S. will intervene only if and when international support coalesces for action.
Did anybody notice the huge 'deal breaker' clause in Obama's new foreign policy?  That's right.  No matter the crisis or threat, the Obama Doctrine seems to disallow the United States the right to act unless others choose to go along.  In other words, Obama doesn't just frown on a potential unilateral action by the U.S., but he mandates that under him, only multilateral actions are to be used.  This is more than unwise - it's ridiculous.  As Allahpundit writes at Hotair,
So if I have this straight, (1) a bloodbath was looming in Benghazi, (2) America’s role as leader of freedom-loving peoples gives it a special duty to intervene abroad to prevent bloodbaths and protect human rights, but (3) if we can’t do it as part of an international effort, too bad, so sad. Does that make sense?
I'm sure many of you think I'm making more of this than necessary, but I don't see how.  America cannot be sovereign when our nation's interests are placed subject to an 'international consensus'.  In my mind, Obama should have acted two weeks earlier than he did.  Our stated goal is the removal of Gaddafi and three weeks ago, he seemed in danger of being overthrown.  Acting then may have ended this intervention quickly.  Awaiting the building of a broad coalition has now put this in jeopardy.

Even worse, President Obama has seemingly elevated this multilateral authorization above the constitution.  Look back at Senator Clinton's remark to Jake Tapper.  She said, "I don't think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago."

By this administration's reasoning, the President may seek either Congressional authorization or International authorization - only one or the other is needed.  If Bush was going to act unilaterally, then Congress was necessary, but Obama acted multilaterally, so there was no need for Congress, according to Clinton.

The President also makes a claim of consulting the bipartisan leadership in Congress prior to the use of force (but only after the formation of a coalition and action was a fait accompli).  It remains to be seen who these leaders were.  Senator James Inhofe (R-KY), the second ranking member of the Armed Forces Committee and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee spoke with Hotair on Monday.  Ed Morrissey
reports that Inhofe, "says he was never consulted by the White House on the action, and after checking with both Democrats and Republicans on those committees, isn’t sure anyone was consulted."  House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) & Senator Lindsey Grahams's (R-SC) previous comments make it unlikely that they had been consulted. It's hard for bipartisan leadership not to include one of these figures.

Understand, I do not raise these issues to criticize the President for moving to use forces.  I support him and our efforts.  In fact, as I have stated, I don't believe our mission goes far enough.  Removing Gaddafi is paramount to success.  That aside, I speak out because I believe having a well principled foreign policy that makes our intentions clear and allows us maximum flexibility to act will make the world a safer place.

When Bush moved to take out Saddam Hussein and it was made clear through the Bush Doctrine that other nations similarly situated would see the same fate, our current nemesis Gaddafi quickly gave up his weapons program.  Because of a clear policy, our use of force in one place created conditions for diplomacy to work in another. 

Moving forward, America must retain the perogative to act when and where it desires.  As we have seen throughout the history of the UN Security Council, allowing others to have veto authority over American actions makes the world a far more dangerous place.  Our diplomacy will be far more effective if the Obama Doctrine would eliminate such unnecessary restrictions on American sovereignty.

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