A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, March 28, 2011

Obama's Speech: First Take

Some initial thoughts on the President's speech [If you haven't seen it, transcript here; embedded video at end of this post.]:
  • While I'm sure the domestic debate will continue, I think it was a good speech in its attempt to say this is an international commitment; the goal is to get rid of Qadhafi but it isn't our military mission, which is winding down.
  • US interests and values were emphasized up front; regional concerns at the end. We can't bear the brunt alone. Perhaps a bit of overemphasis that it's NATO's issue now. NATO has decided to add protection of civilians to the military mission, not us. Last time I looked, we're a member of NATO.
  • Only a 30 minute speech (some say because ABC didn't want to preempt Dancing with the Stars): why from NDU rather than the Oval Office? Probably to assist military credibility.
  • I noted with interest that he said we had to act quickly to prevent the fall of Benghazi, a city of 700,000, "a city nearly the size of Charlotte." Why the choice of Charlotte? It' s a nice city, the banking capital of the South, but other cities in the 700,000 range include Fort Worth, Detroit, El Paso, Memphis, Baltimore, Boston . . . Do you suppose this could have anything to do with the 2012 Democratic Party Convention being in Charlotte? Surely just a coincidence.
Here's the video:


David Mack said...

We are seeing the slow makings of an "Obama doctrine," which is not quite progressive interventionism and not quite neo-realism. Call it "situational liberal internationalism," perhaps. I'm all for it.

Consistency in these matters is hugely overrated by many pristine academics, single issue foreign policy advocates, talking heads and political blowhards. Every situation is different, concrete U.S. national interests and available resources always have to be balanced with our national values. Moreover, while it is better to have had the cover of endorsement by the GCC, Arab League, UNSC, etc, there will be occasions where we must act to protect vital national interests without waiting or necessarily trying very hard to get international cover. What was happening in Libya was not one of them.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Indeed. An odd outlier of this is Joe Lieberman's suggestion that we should intervene in Syria. I think he must not have gotten his usual guidance from the Israelis, since they're having real problems dealing with so much change. As near as I can make out, they really want to preserve the devil they know, since they really think the Muslim Brotherhood is the threat to Asad. They (and the Saudis) are probably why Clinton said Asad isn't Qadhafi.