President Obama’s speech tonight regarding the rationale for American involvement in Libya was inspiring and emotionally engaging. It was also completely unconvincing from a logical standpoint. The rationale for the conflict still makes little sense. In fact, I have heard far better arguments for intervention from folks who follow this blog.
“It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right.”
The beauty of this statement is that it is a much more sophisticated way of saying, “You are either with me or against me.” I mean, who could possibly be against what is right? The problem, of course, is that President Obama never explains what that means.
I think intervening on behalf of a population that has provided aid and succor to al Qaeda is not in America’s interests. Nor is intervening in an Arab civil war. But the sheer arrogance of assuming that the administration’s actions are “on behalf of what’s right” is a nice sleight of hand that does not fool me for a second.
“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and -– more profoundly -– our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”
The cognitive dissonance of this statement is beautiful. It not only appeals to the concept of American exceptionalism, which President Obama has denied in the past, but also it appeals to America’s position as a leader, as a rationale for American involvement in the conflict. Yet, in the same speech, the President reminds Americans that “the United States will play a supporting role” in, not lead, the mission. This statement completely contradicts Obama’s “leadership” rationale and conveniently invokes American exceptionalism when the President has denied it existed in the past.
To be blunt, this speech frightened me. The leader of the free world, who controls the most powerful military in the history of mankind, cannot provide a simple and logical explanation for why the United States is dropping five-hundred pound bombs on people on one side of a civil war.
America deserves better, more experienced, less idealistic leadership.