President Obama added a new foreign policy position to our existing doctrines with his decision to join NATO forces in the no fly zone over Libya and the agreement to take ” all necessary measures” against Col. Gadhafi as outlined in United Nations resolution 1973. The United States is now committed to coming to the assistance of those fighters for freedom who face ” looming genocide.” As the President stated in his speech on March 29th at Ft. McNair, ” I refused to wait for the image of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”
In the tradition of former president Jimmy Carter, who added human rights and opposition to supporting authoritarian dictators around the world to our foreign policy prescriptions, the Obama Doctrine now takes this country down the road to protecting democratic rebels in countries where we do not have a direct national security interest.
With this involvement in Libya the United Staates has now resurrected the Carter position that we must take action not only because of national security and national interest, but also because of our values, our guiding principles, our belief in human rights. In short, this country cannot just sit by and let people be killed who want to be free, even though we really don’t know how much they are committed to freedom or our values, principles and beliefs.
Although there has been much made of the women on Obama’s foreign policy team such as UN Representative Susan Rice, National Security advisor Samantha Power and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushing the president to take this new direction in foreign policy, there is also the memory of the United States standing by when the killing started in Rwanda, killing that eventually took the lives of 750,000 innocents. Also there was Kosovo where the United States waited far to long to get involved knowing that thousands of Muslims were ” cleansed” by Serbian nationalists.
So with the Obama Doctrine in place the obvious question is, will this new policy direction be used elsewhere, such as in Syria or perhaps even Iran? Is the Obama Doctrine just an aberration because this country was pulled into the fighting by the British and the French? The Obama Doctrine is new and really untested, so only time will tell whether the United States has indeed taken a new direction in its response to popular uprisings against tyrants.
But one thing is clear, rather than turn away from the killings in Libya as the US did in Rwanda and Kosovo, Obama decided to save lives.