Commentators have been mystified by Obama's vacillation, his indecisiveness and his apparent apathy about foreign policy. I do think that Obama far prefers domestic policy to foreign policy and that he wants to focus most of his attention on redistributing wealth, administering "economic justice" and otherwise fundamentally changing America. But we should understand that fundamentally transforming America has an essential foreign policy component, as well.
I concede that he probably hadn't given much thought to how he would pursue his foreign policy beyond broad general strokes of negotiating with our enemies and "restoring America's image abroad."
It probably didn't occur to him that he would actually find himself ordering a military attack on another nation, especially a Middle Eastern nation. But I think that when the Libyan situation was unfolding, it occurred to Obama that this was his opportunity to put his foreign policy philosophy into action -- beyond the speeches he had given. I think his excursion into Libya can best be understood in the context of his views about America and wanting to recast it in his image.
The entire Democratic establishment carped at President George W. Bush's allegedly unilateral, arrogant and abusive policies, which supposedly damaged our international image. They said his policies -- invading Iraq for oil, "torture" at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, rendition, military tribunals, etc. -- served as the best possible recruitment tool for Islamic terrorists.
But while many Democrats leveled those charges disingenuously for crass partisan gain, Obama was a true believer from the get-go. He even caught flak from Hillary Clinton during the campaign for his willingness to negotiate with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions.
Whether or not you believe anti-colonialism is the driver, Obama's animating foreign policy passion is that America has been an international bully that needs to be brought down to size. He couldn't wait to confess America's "arrogance" and "dismissiveness" to foreign nations on their soil. He gleefully told the Muslim world in his Cairo speech how wonderful and peaceful Islam is and how much it has contributed to America. He made clear that he doesn't believe in American exceptionalism when he said it is no different from Greek or British exceptionalism.
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