RSS
The 'Obama Doctrine': Has the president gone neocon in Libya?
The president rode an anti-war platform into office, but now he's embarking on an armed conflict of his own
President Obama is briefed on the situation in Libya during a conference call Sunday with Chief of Staff Bill Daley (left), National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others.
President Obama is briefed on the situation in Libya during a conference call Sunday with Chief of Staff Bill Daley (left), National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others.
CC BY: The White House
A

fter inheriting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama has initiated his first new military intervention by authorizing U.S. warships and jets to attack Moammar Gadhafi's forces in Libya. Obama opposed the so-called Bush Doctrine of preemptive and, if necessary, unilateral war against any perceived threat to the security of the United States. Now, Obama has justified the airstrikes against Libya by saying that the U.S. couldn't stand by while a tyrant slaughtered his own people. With so many other autocrats around the world, is Obama pioneering an aggressive new foreign policy that will make neoconservatives proud? (Watch a Euronews report about the attacks)

Yes. Obama has seen the light: President Obama came to power insisting it was time to get out of "Bush's wars," say Gary Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly at The Weekly Standard, and invest the savings at home. But the crisis in Libya made him realize that sometimes there is no substitute for American military power. With the start of his own Middle East war, Obama clearly "now understands" that wielding our might overseas in times of crisis is "the right and necessary thing to do."
"No substitute for power"

No. The "Obama Doctrine" has strict limits: The campaign against Gadhafi definitely marks the beginnings of "an Obama Doctrine for military intervention," says David Corn at Mother Jones, but that doesn't make him a Bush-era neocon. Obama is saying the U.S. will fight "for democracy and humanitarian aims when it is in the nation's interest and when the locals are involved and desire U.S. participation." That's "the Anti-Bush Doctrine" — "we're not cowboys" any more.
"Libya: Obama crafts the Anti-Bush Doctrine"

Multilateralism is what makes this different: Critics say Obama's being reckless by "embarking on a war with a third Muslim country," says Peter Bergen at CNN, but this is "quite a different operation than the 2003 invasion of Iraq." Obama has sworn off the use of U.S. ground troops and, more importantly, he has forged a truly international coalition by waiting until he could secure the active participation of the United Nations and the Arab League. This will remind Arabs "that their biggest enemy is not the United States, but their own rulers."
"Why Libya 2011 is not Iraq 2003"

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week