<>“…Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya, in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians…”
Thus began a press conference with President Barack Obama. It was Saturday March 19th. While traveling in Brazil, he took a few minutes to announce that a military response to the Gaddafi crisis was underway.
Calling the matter “a limited military action in Libya” that would “protect Libyan civilians” was an earnest attempt at a positive spin. But this fact remains: after spending the first two years of his presidency insisting that the values of America and the Muslim world are consistent with one-another, now President Barack Obama was ordering bombs to be dropped on a predominantly Muslim country.
Might this fact suggest that some of President Obama’s philosophical assumptions about the world have been, perhaps, a bit inaccurate?
Over the years, our current President has demonstrated an adherence to three important philosophical schools of thought. For one, he would clearly appear to be a proponent of economic collectivism, the assumption that the overall economic wellbeing of everybody - “the group,” if you will - is more important than the economic rights and liberties of the individual. His push to make healthcare a “basic human right,” his attempts to raise taxes on the wealthy so as to better fund “middle class” programs, and his stated desire to “spread the wealth around” (the goal he famously uttered to the “Joe The Plumber” character in 2008) are all consistent with this philosophy.
President Obama also seems to adhere to “moral relativism.” In general terms, this is the assumption that ideas, values, and cultures are not objectively good or bad in and of themselves, but instead are all very subjective, and relative to one-another. Evidence of the President’s moral relativism is especially apparent in the ways in which he seems to view the tensions that exist between the Muslim world and those of us in the West.
From the earliest days of his presidential campaign in 2007, Barack Obama made it clear that there was nothing objectively bad or wrong about the propensity towards terrorism of the Muslim nations, but rather, Muslim terrorism had to be understood in the context of American “hostility” and President Bush’s aggression. This relativistic view led to some amazing policy pronouncements, in particular, Obama’s declaration that as President he would plan a diplomatic meeting with the Holocaust denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Since the days of the Carter presidency, America has recognized Iran as a nation that sponsors “state terrorism,” and as such, the past five Presidents have refused to engage with Iran’s “leader.” But if there is nothing objectively good or bad about nations, then the U.S. has no reason to ostracize a nation that sponsors terrorism. Thus, candidate Obama proffered a plan for a new, “post-Bush” approach to Iran, and announced that he would meet with Ahmadinejad.
Along with his convictions about collectivism and relativism, President Obama also seems to adhere to “internationalism.” This is the assumption that global wellbeing is more important than the interests of any one, particular nation, and that global good is achieved only when individual nations operate in concert with one another. These three philosophical assumptions likely led to candidate Obama’s promise that the “first thing” he would do as President would be to end the “senseless war” in Iraq.
But running for the presidency is one thing, and actually being President is another. And while the three philosophical platforms of collectivism, relativism and internationalism made for some enticing campaign rhetoric, they have not made for a better world – not for America, and not for anyone else.
The President has found that the war in Iraq is pragmatically impossible to end right now. Iran has responded to our President’s friendliness with taunting, jeering, and insults. And despite the President’s sharp increase in U.S. foreign aid to Hamas and the Palestinians, the Muslim world is as dangerous, and as hostile to the West as it has ever been (an effigy of President Obama was stamped on and beaten in the streets of Tripoli last week).
This flawed worldview has been painfully apparent in the midst of several recent world events. When the Egyptian uprising began earlier this year, President Obama initially urged “calm” while Vice President Biden insisted that Hasni Mubarak was a “good guy.” Yet the people of Egypt, longing for freedom and to have a voice in how they are governed, thought differently from our President and Vice President, and continued to protest until Mubarak was gone.
And now the “broad coalition” of the United Nations has done what President Obama could not: they made the moral judgment that the murderous tyranny of a Muslim dictator named Muammar Gaddafi was objectively wrong, and needed to be stopped. The President’s commitment to internationalism necessitated a military decision that his own moral relativism would have never allowed. FIndeed, the Obama worldview has collapsed. But what does this mean for American influence in the future?