The Obama Doctrine is bad foreign policy
In his speech about Libya last night, President Obama articulated his thinking about intervention quite clearly – and it's quite clearly unacceptable.
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In Mr. Obama’s mind, that wisdom and responsibility are logged in the UN Security Council and the collective mind of the Atlantic alliance supplemented by consent from neighboring governments in the region of the atrocity. In his speech, the president referenced the consent and resources of both NATO and several Arab states.Skip to next paragraph
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In Obama’s mind, the United States does not have the moral or legal authority to lead – even as it provides the bulk of, and most essential, military resources. The command structure must be within NATO; however, running a military action by international committee hardly fosters quick decisionmaking and is hardly the best formula for success.
Why, with a GDP and population larger than the United States, the European Union cannot carry the heaviest load is a question a succession of presidents has not been willing to press. Under the Obama Doctrine, the Europeans get to command US troops and spend US money to accomplish goals more central to their collective security – look at the map, Libya is a lot closer to France than Maine.
The president, recognizing the limits of intervention, has divided the task into two goals – 1) avoiding massacre and permitting the popular uprising the opportunity to prevail, and 2) removing Qaddafi – apparently because international authority in the form of UN resolutions only permits the former. To depose the tyrant and end atrocities, the US and its allies must rely on an arms embargo, freezing Libya’s foreign assets and similar economic measures. Yet those methods have questionable records of success.
Hence, our commitment in Libya is open-ended – we stay as long as the threat of massacre is present and the allies want American troops. Meanwhile, getting rid of Qaddafi – a worthy and stated American goal – must rely on other, less-effective means. Without a permission slip from the UN, even covert actions to destabilize Qaddafi, though more palatable than air attacks, are illegal.
Under the Obama Doctrine, it appears that the US is committed to putting troops in harm’s way and bearing the heaviest financial costs as long as the coalition of NATO and selected Arab states want US troops. And the very nature of running a war by committee reduces the likelihood of success, extends the likely duration of the US commitment, and exacerbates the risks to US troops.
Simply, by compelling an open-ended commitment under international control and limited tools to resolve the conflict, the Obama Doctrine and the Libyan campaign are not good foreign policy.