When I first read Obama's Libyan speech I thought it was contradictory and faintly incoherent. However, as I thought about it and then read it again, I realized that Obama's speech made perfect sense if you viewed it from the perspective of a transnational Europhile, which is precisely the world view Obama holds.
Obama mentions the U.S. Congress in passing in the speech, but in reality it is the international community, and what he calls an "international mandate" that he invokes as justification for the intervention. It is his transnational impulses that lead him to stress that the UN, NATO and the African Union give legitimacy to the action while never really conferring with Congress and largely ignoring the American public for over a week.
Consider his pride in the coalition being put together in only 31 days. We know that the U.S. has acted with greater alacrity in other interventions, but that's the rub -- to him a Nation calling on its allies for action is the old and failed style of diplomacy and war. To him multinational organizations like the UN, the EU, NATO, the Arab League and the African Union trump mere governments. From that view point the agreement was quickly reached, while any previous military actions were merely national in scope and thus suspect and could be safely dismissed as being out-dated and irrelevant.
That is also why, aside from a nod to "democratic impulses" in the region he never discusses democracy. To the transnationalist the citizens are secondary -- after all, they are often little more than bumpkins when all is said and done. Further, it is not congresses or parliaments of individual governments that matter, rather it is the conferences and meetings of governments that confer authority. And, in the end, it doesn't matter not in the least how these leaders came to power, it only matters that they sit at the negotiating tables and support the new civilized order of the world.
Such attitudes explain his contradictions in taking action against Gaddafy while keeping the door propped open for Gaddafy's survival. In the transnational world there are only two avenues for Gaddy to pursue: he either steps down and ends up on the docket of the ICC at some future date, or he moderates his behavior while he keeps pumping the oil. The people's aspirations don't really matter, just ask a Syrian if you doubt that, it is only the stability of the world order that weighs on the scale.
Yes, there is a lot of spin and BS in his speech, but at its core I think that, considering his embrace of the transnational world view, it is clear he is acting consistently. Too bad it is the Senate, and not the House, that can exert its authority in matters of war and peace. We're on a bad path I fear.
Fantomas in the Shadow of the Guillotine (1913)
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