Editorial: 'Obama Doctrine' is nuanced, modestPublished Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011
President Barack Obama's speech on U.S. action in Libya, which he underplayed as an "update" to the American people, was much more than that.
It was a major policy statement, addressing lessons from the former Yugoslavia during the Bush I and Clinton administrations – and from Iraq during the Bush II administration.
It clearly outlines U.S. action in matters "when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are." In vintage Obama form, he takes a middle position between people who are too willing to ignore problems outside our borders and those who are too ready to intervene.
The ghost of Richard Holbrooke, that giant of diplomacy who died in December, was ever-present. The architect of the 1995 Bosnia peace plan was an articulate proponent of the view that history presents us with unpredictable events involving "choices between risky involvement and costly neglect" and that our strategic interests and humanitarian values can reinforce each other.
Obama has rejected the Iraq model of a U.S. military mission of regime change. That goal the United States will pursue, but by nonmilitary means.
And he has gleaned from the Bosnia/Yugoslavia situation that we acted belatedly when an early commitment by the United States – and NATO air power – could have averted disaster.
He described the Libya situation this way: When a dictator who unleashed military jets and helicopter gunships "upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air," the United States and the world "faced a choice." Allow atrocities or act.
Obama acted, taking a month to mobilize a coalition for an arms embargo and no-fly-zone. In Bosnia in the 1990s, he noted, it took more than a year to mobilize the international community to intervene with air power to protect civilians.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.