Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Obama Doctrine of Multilateralism on the Line in Libya

Does President Obama’s cautious, limited approach to intervention in Libya augur a new U.S. role in world affairs?

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

With the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in command of military operations in Libya, U.S. President Barack Obama's doctrine of multilateralism is on the line.

"[W]ith America and its president less inclined to act alone and ever seeking ways to shift the job of keeping the peace globally to others, this Libya case should be viewed both in terms of what it means to the situation on the ground in that war torn country and as a possible test-case of a new approach to world affairs – one that Barack Obama would ultimately like to be able to take credit for leading," argued Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar David Rothkopf last week.

In the contentious lead-up to intervention, Obama was unwavering in his message that any U.S. action would have to be in concert with the international community. He especially insisted on "Arab leadership and participation" in military strikes against the North African country, where more than 330,000 people have been displaced by fighting between pro-democracy rebels and soldiers loyal to long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Domestic debate raged about imposing a no-fly zone (NFZ), as some sceptics warned that U.S. influence abroad would suffer if Washington mired itself militarily in yet another Muslim country.

"With two wars going in Iraq and Afghanistan, with huge deficits at home, with neo-isolationist voices rising from the Tea Party and other parts of the political spectrum, you might have guessed that intervention would not have occurred," Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), told IPS.

While allies like France and Britain were early supporters of military action, Washington was hesitant until the Arab League's last-minute endorsement. Then, within days, the U.S. helped to negotiate the passage of United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 authorising an NFZ, ostensibly to avert mass civilian casualties, and the hawks triumphed.

"The episode constitutes a victory for liberal interventionists" and "a sign of a continuing [domestic] appetite to expend blood and treasure in crises abroad – including a crisis like this, which does not pose a direct threat to the U.S.," Kupchan argued.

But as Obama's demands for international participation were met and public opinion polls showed popular support for U.S. action, the reluctant president was left with little choice, according to some observers.

"Not only do I think that this is a successful bout of multilateralism, but I think that the consensus-building that occurred elsewhere to some extent forced Obama's hand," Kupchan added.

"From the beginning, he said he would like other partners to do more in the world," he continued. "In many respects, they gave Obama what he wanted."

Writing in his 'Foreign Policy' blog Thursday, Rothkopf characterised the "abstainers" of resolution 1973 as being among the Libyan war's "victors" – a coalition with the potential to be an "alternative to the old trans-Atlantic alliance".

"The group, the BRICs [Brazil, Russia, India and China] plus Germany, may have sat on the sidelines for the vote but by imagining the outcome had they not done so, their potential power is made clear," he argued.

"China and Russia have veto power. And of the four countries most likely to join them as Security Council permanent members in the years ahead, three of them rounded out this group," he explained.

For some, Washington's late addition to the cacophony of voices calling for military intervention could be fodder for American declinists. For others, it is proof of the capitol's enduring influence.

"[I]f something is going to get done, [the U.S. is] going to have to be in the lead," Max Boot, a neoconservative foreign policy analyst at CFR, argued Wednesday, expressing scepticism about the transition to coalition command of military operations in Libya.

"And we saw that simply with the authorisation at the U.N. where, you know, Sarkozy, for example, was way out front in talking about the need to intervene, but it didn't happen until last week when Obama said, OK, now we're on board," he continued.

As one of NATO's 28 members and as part of the international coalition participating in the enforcement of Libya's NFZ and arms embargo – which now includes Arab League members Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – the White House says it will play a mere support role in subsequent phases of the operation.

But, Boot argued, "we're going to have the biggest say in terms of what happens no matter how Obama tries to camouflage it."

"[E]verybody knows we're the top dog here," he contended. "[Obama] can try to be, you know, humble and try to put the U.S. in the background as much as possible, but the reality is we are the number one power in the world."

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Although sometimes characterized as a Republican “maverick” for his bipartisan forays into domestic policy, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the Senate’s more vocal hawks.


Former CIA director Michael Hayden, a stalwart advocate of the Bush-era policies on torture and warrantless wiretapping, has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


A right-wing Christian and governor of Kansas, Brownback previously served in the U.S. Senate, where he gained a reputation as a leading social conservative as well as an outspoken “pro-Israel” hawk on U.S. Middle East policy.


Steve Forbes, head of the Forbes magazine empire, is an active supporter of a number of militarist policy organizations that have pushed for aggressive U.S. foreign policies.


Stephen Hadley, an Iraq War hawk and former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, now chairs the U.S. Institute for Peace.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The Trump administration appears to have been surprised by this breach among its friends in the critical Gulf strategic area. But it is difficult to envision an effective U.S. role in rebuilding this Humpty-Dumpty.


Print Friendly

A recent vote in the European Parliament shows how President Trump’s relentless hostility to Iran is likely to isolate Washington more than Tehran.


Print Friendly

The head of the Institute for Science and International Security—aka “the Good ISIS”—recently demonstrated again his penchant for using sloppy analysis as a basis for politically explosive charges about Iran, in this case using a faulty translation from Persian to misleadingly question whether Tehran is “mass producing advanced gas centrifuges.”


Print Friendly

Trump has exhibited a general preference for authoritarians over democrats, and that preference already has had impact on his foreign policy. Such an inclination has no more to do with realism than does a general preference for democrats over authoritarians.


Print Friendly

The President went to the region as a deal maker and a salesman for American weapon manufacturing. He talked about Islam, terrorism, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the benefit of expert advice in any of these areas. After great showmanship in Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he and his family left the region without much to show for or to benefit the people of that war-torn region.


Print Friendly

Although the Comey memo scandal may well turn out to be what brings Trump down, this breach of trust may have had more lasting effect than any of Trump’s other numerous misadventures. It was an unprecedented betrayal of Israel’s confidence. Ironically, Trump has now done what even Barack Obama’s biggest detractors never accused him of: seriously compromised Israel’s security relationship with the United States.


Print Friendly

Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style — in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.


RightWeb
share