On Monday evening, President Obama spoke on the military action in Libya. Contained in his speech are the markings of developing Obama Doctrine. I wrote a post yesterday examining what that means. You can read it here.
After sleeping on it, I think I have figured out what really bothered me about his speech. It, of course, comes in the section where he outlines how he perceives American leadership. He says,
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.
I was on my best behavior as I wrote my analysis yesterday, but the honest truth is that I absolutely detest this last paragraph. What enemy of the United States would read or hear those words and not feel emboldened; that their actions may go unpunished.
As I said, something about the wordplay bothered me. Today, I figured out what it was. I dislike his wording, because it contradicts the heart of a historic address by another President.
I never want to be known for only criticizing and not offering a helpful suggestion. So, with that in mind, I offer this; the section of another speech I wish he would have echoed. (Feel free to yell out when you know who is speaking)
...the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe -- the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge -- and more.
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do -- for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.
To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom -- and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required -- not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
Those are the words of President John F. Kennedy at his inaugauration. Read the whole speech here.
In his speech, he talked of the need to strengthen the UN, the need to negotiate with others and the need to always seek peace where possible. But he made it clear to our Communist enemies where he stood. We can fault some early missteps during his Presidency, but this speech was a highpoint.
I want our President to make it clear to the oppressors that they should no longer expect to have free reign to terrorize the citizens of the world. That America will lead the charge toward a better world that will not abide the trampling of liberty in any its hidden corners. We will always strive to lead the community of nations against tyranny in all its forms wherever they exist, but America will never backdown from acting alone in the service of our own liberty and security.
That's what I wish he would have said.