Obama on Libya: The U.S. has done what it said it would do

Five and a half minutes of highlights from CNN, but somehow they missed the key part. They’ve got the bit where he says we’ve already done what we promised (as I said earlier, this speech would be about declaring victory, not urging Americans onward to it). They’ve got the bit where he justifies humanitarian intervention on grounds of American exceptionalism(!), declaring that while some countries can ignore atrocities abroad, “the United States of America is different.” But where’s the part where he announces The Obama Doctrine?

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.

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? Especially given that the “leadership” evinced in coalition-building here wasn’t as robust as it was in Afghanistan and Iraq? In fact, here’s a quickie fact-check from the AP that scarcely needs to be written. What he means when he talks about a U.S. handover is that, essentially, we’re handing the mission from our right hand to our left.

In transferring command and control to NATO, the U.S. is turning the reins over to an organization dominated by the U.S., both militarily and politically. In essence, the U.S. runs the show that is taking over running the show.

And the rapid advance of rebels in recent days strongly suggests they are not merely benefiting from military aid in a defensive crouch, but rather using the multinational force in some fashion — coordinated or not — to advance an offensive.

At least he mentioned NATO tonight. Left unmentioned: Why he still hasn’t asked Congress for a resolution authorizing the mission and, more importantly, just who these rebels are who are allegedly poised to join us in the community of freedom-loving nations. Some do want democracy and a civil society. Others’ interests are … more nuanced.

Exit question for the three Obama voters among our readership: Did you ever expect that Bill Kristol would not only be praising The One’s foreign policy speeches but would actually be getting briefed by him beforehand? We’re all neocons now.

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