When parsing Barack Obama, it's essential to see his hard Left ideological incubation as the prism through with to view his actions. In this way, "dithering" or "ineptitude" do not measure up as explanations for his failings to serve American interests, even though both are continually offered as such by his critics. As a hard Leftist, he has no American interests as "narrowly" defined: They are lost in a grab-bag of what we might call global-elite interests, a noxious package of motivations and beliefs derived from Big Daddy Marxism, anti-Americanism, anti-imperialism, anto-colonialism, pro-Third Worldism, Frantz Fanonism, chip-on-his-shoulderism.... Thus, looking for morning-after critiques of Obam's speech on Libya, I was hoping for a more or less ideological understanding of what was really going on. Stanley Kurtz, one of the few writers who approach Obama through this hard Left prism (he actually wrote a book about it), offers this take, via The Corner:
As his speech tonight confirms, President Obama intervened in Libya to prevent a massacre in Benghazi. That is the long and short of it. Yes, he also hoped that his action would blunt Qaddafi’s counter-revolutionary stroke, thereby putting us “on the right side” of the emerging revolt in the Middle East (Hillary’s chief concern). Yet that was a secondary motive. Fundamentally, Obama was unwilling to go down in history as the man who allowed a massacre in Benghazi. He also wanted to set a precedent for future multilateral humanitarian interventions under United Nations auspices. Everything else follows from this core motive, which is represented within his administration by Samantha Power and Susan Rice, above all.
Obama is not a neoconservative democratizer. When he talks about our values of human rights and democracy, he has in mind the progressive vision of a UN-dictated rights regime that constrains and encroaches upon national sovereignty, including our own. This is the portion of his policy goals in Libya (drawn from advisors like Power) that he does not explicitly spell out. It depends on doctrines like “responsibility to protect,” liable to future expansion and abuse by international bodies.
Over at PJM, John Rosenthal offers some background on the sloppy evolution of "responsibility to protect" (so-called R2P), The more I read about it, the more "R2P"sounds like a thick, high-sounding PR campaign designed to mask the power lust of global elites.
Instead of going into all this, Obama merely highlights the “historic” UN resolution that enshrines the new doctrine, and speaks of his worry that a failure to act would have rendered the UN’s “writ” meaningless.
To Obama, of course, making the US Constitution meaningless poses no such peril.
There are immense problems with all of this, of course, both from the standpoint of American interests more conventionally defined, and from the standpoint of humanitarianism. In a tribal civil war, those we have saved are as likely to massacre Qaddafi’s supporters, should they take power with our help, as Qaddafi was to kill them. Getting out from our moral and military responsibility for that will be a neat trick.
This is called, as the exhaustingly folksy cliche goes, having no dog in that fight.
As far as our “conventional” national interests go, whether you’re an eager democratizer or a realist, nothing Obama is doing makes much sense. The point is, Obama was unwilling to let Benghazi fall under Qaddafi’s power, and he’s trying to avoid excessive American involvement beyond that simple act. He would love for all the uncomfortable consequences of his humanitarian gesture to go away.
Or would he? I dunno. Maybe he likes shooting off $600,000 cruise missiles and not replacing them.
But of course they won’t. Saving Benghazi is not a simple act. It has massive ramifications and complications for humanitarianism, for democracy promotion or the lack thereof, and for America’s economic and military interests traditionally defined. On all this, Obama is simply juggling the complicated results of his humanitarian gesture as best he can.
Let’s go back to that fateful Tuesday meeting. Benghazi was about to fall. Hillary had just been rebuffed in her efforts to meet with the young demonstrators who brought down Mubarak. She had also been told by other Egyptians that they wanted Qaddafi stopped, because his success against his foes would break their movement’s momentum in the region. Obama saw in all this a chance in that to square the circle of our values and our interests, the conflict between which had been causing him no end of difficulty and embarrassment for weeks.
Tahrir Square demonstrators as US policy-makers!
By stopping the massacre, he saved his good name and helped Hillary in her efforts to gain favor with the revolutionaries in Egypt and beyond. (The real reason Hillary was rebuffed, I maintain, was the bitter anti-Americanism of the Tahrir Square demonstrators who shunned her. They cannot be appeased, although Hillary falsely believed they could be.) Obama’s national security advisors looked at our conventional interests and saw the mess of constraints and contradictions intervention would bring. Obama famously overruled “the men,” going instead with his troika of female advisors, and it’s all played out to form since.
Obama has saved his good name on Benghazi for the history books. The young Egyptians still don’t like us, and they aren’t in charge anymore anyway. An alliance of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood is now running the show in Egypt instead.
But, as of Sunday, I heard Bill Kristol still prattling about "Arab Spring"....
As for our more conventional interests and military position, Libya is a contradictory mess, as Obama’s own national security advisors foresaw.
You know you're in trouble when Obama's national security advisors can say I told you so.
It was all predictable and predicted (except for Hillary’s naive take on Egypt).
Say it aint so: Hillary isn't the smartest woman in the world?
Obama made his choice and we are living with the consequences now.
We haven't even begun to see the consequences of this one.