Ed Driscoll

Obama's Foreign Policy Objectives: 'I'm Not Bush'

“Obama’s foreign policy objectives are more an ‘I’m not Bush’ to-do list than an actual strategy,” Tigerhawk quips, neatly summing up the confusion over our endgame, or the lack thereof, in Libya.

In the L.A. Times, Jonah Goldberg writes, “As someone who supported a Libyan no-fly zone from the earliest days of what once seemed like a revolution but now looks like a civil war, I have to admit that Operation Odyssey Dawn may be a perfect example of being careful about what you wish for:”

I’d still bet Kadafi’s a goner. And if things go well and quickly in Libya, Obama will win a lot of political capital for his deft statesmanship, at least in the short term.

But there are real problems with Obama going to the corners, to use another basketball expression. In the heat of the moment, Obama could have taken out Kadafi without much of an explanation. But now he must offer a rationale that’s very hard to square with what’s going on in the rest of the Middle East. Obama says Libyan rebels must be protected from a leader who would kill them “without mercy.” OK, does that apply as well to Saudi, Yemeni, Bahraini and Iranian rebels? No? Why not?

And now that America is rescuing losing rebels rather than lending support to winning ones, we will “own” the next Libyan regime. Let’s cross our fingers on that score.

Back when Obama seemed to be doing nothing, he was resolute that Kadafi “must go.” But now that he has taken action, we’re fighting merely to protect Libyan citizens, as per the U.N. resolution authorizing force. If ousting Kadafi is in our national interest, why settle for something less in exchange for international support? And what does it mean when — as is already happening — Obama’s coalition of the willing starts to unravel?

Why does pursuing our national interest hinge on approval from the Arab League and U.N. Security Council — including the votes of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal and South Africa — and not Congress? In the heat of the moment, it’s understood that presidents can’t always wait for congressional approval. But if we can wait for the Gabonese to say yes, surely we can wait for the U.S. Senate.

Obama, who campaigned on ending Middle Eastern wars, not starting them, wanted a war completely on his own terms. He got what he wished for.

Victor Davis Hanson describes the mission in Libya thusly:

So far all I can come up with is the following: if there is a mass protest against a Middle East regime, and if it seems almost certain that the regime will fall, then the U.S. at the opportune time will insist that the regime does fall days before it does. That seems a better barometer than whether the regime is pro-US, anti-American, merely authoritarian than genocidal, theocratic, monarchial, oligarchic, or dictatorial, etc. Obama thought Qaddafi would go; he didn’t as planned; the pesky Europeans got up on their hind legs and made a stink, so now Obama is forced to enforce his rhetoric and to wage a sort of war against and not against Qaddafi, one that is and is more than a no-fly-zone, in support of and out in front of the Europeans. If Qaddafi falls, we will learn that it is due to Obama’s unappreciated and underscored efforts; if he does not, and things get Mogadishu like, then he reminds us why he adopted such a low-profile intervention.

Of course, that’s from yesterday; there’s still plenty of time to change the plan. But as Mark Steyn wrote when President Bush left office:

I don’t know about my Code Pink friend, but I already miss Bush’s straightforwardness. He spoke a language all but extinct in the upper echelons of electoral politics. “Bush lied”? Here he is in Crawford, early in 2002, being interviewed by Trevor McDonald of Britain’s ITN:“I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go,” said Bush.

“And, of course, if the logic of the War on Terror means anything,” Sir Trevor responded, relentlessly forensic in his determination not to let Bush get away with these shifty evasions, “then Saddam must go?”

“That’s what I just said,” said the president. “The policy of my government is that he goes.”

“So you’re going to go after him?” pressed Sir Trevor, reluctant to take yes for an answer.

“As I told you,” said the president, “the policy of my government is that Saddam Hussein not be in power.”

Etc. George W. Bush is who he is, and he never pretended to be anything but. Do you know how rare that is? If you don’t, you surely will after six months of Barack Obama’s enigmatic cool.

Or, maybe not — on Twitter, Michael B Dougherty of the American Conservative boils both sides’ view of presidential wartime policies down to the absolute essentials.