Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell got together on MSNBC for some post speech Obama analysis. At one point Maddow explained how by electing Obama, America swapped ideology and preemptive war for humanitarian pragmatism. She said, “He is not promising unilateral action on a broad basis, he promises multi-lateral intervention on a broadly considered basis informed with pragmatism about costs and benefits.”
Here is the video from MSNBC:
Rachel Maddow sat down with Lawrence O’Donnell for the post speech analysis and they discussed Obama’s humanitarian pragmatism, “He named this as an important strategic interest of the United States and as being in America’s national interest. But the things that he described as proving that were potential flood of refugees in the Middle East, the democratic impulses on view in the Middle East with the various revolutions and uprisings being quenched by this brutal dictator, and credibility, speaking for the international community and stepping up in cases like this. That is the sort of thing, you could make that case about America having a strong national strategic interest for any number of other conflicts or potential conflicts that we could get ourselves embraided in the region or in any other region. what he defined tonight was why Libya and not Syria, why Libya and not Yemen, why not the other places where there are bad things going on that could flood of refugees. and he essentially said because it could be done in Libya. The United States had an opportunity.”
Maddow discussed why Obama decided to act in Libya, “I think the refugees point was sort of — it led to the more specific point about why Libya, and the more specific point about why Libya was international coalition, the Libyans themselves asking for it, and the ability to accomplish the mandate of the international coalition, without putting in ground troops. So he’s saying listen, you could make a case for us intervening everywhere. part of the reason we’re doing it here is because we could, that it would mean something to intervene, and it wouldn’t cost us so much that we would regret having done it. Very pragmatic.”
Lawrence O’Donnell, added that there seems to be no Obama Doctrine at work here, “I am reluctant to use war, it doesn’t quite seem like that from the American perspective. Seems like unilateral intervention, there isn’t any fighting back against the intervention here. Anyway, he stresses this humanitarian intervention. He says in this particular country, at this particular moment we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We have the unique ability, uses that phrase, unique ability. Keeps using phrases like that that says in effect there is no doctrine here. Don’t look to this to predict where we will do something next.”
Maddow discussed Obama’s foreign policy pragmatism, and the fact that Obama will be guided by facts not doctrine, “This is not a precedent setting mission. The precedent broadly speaking is that America is not isolationist, we are reluctant to get involved under this president in additional wars, and when we do, we will weigh what we will do against what we may get out of it. We are not trying to get Gadhafi with force. We would love it if Gadhafi wasn’t there. To get there, we would spend what we spent in Iraq, and we can’t afford it. We used the phrase we can’t afford it now.”
Rachel Maddow explained why Obama isn’t a war monger like George W. Bush, “He essentially said that we will — he said we will respond obviously when our safety is at risk, but there are times when we will respond when it is not our safety at risk, and it may be to stop genocide or to keep the peace, it may be to support the flow of commerce. I mean, it may be any of these very broad list of American interests that he defined. He essentially is saying we reserve the right to intervene when we want to, but the thing that should make you feel at ease about that, if you are worried that it sounds like a belligerent America is that the way we will intervene is to persuade other nations to join us and participate in an international action. He is not promising unilateral action on a broad basis, he promises multi-lateral intervention on a broadly considered basis informed with pragmatism about costs and benefits.”
Many on the left have been worried that Obama was going to get sucked into the war mongering of George W. Bush, but tonight this president demonstrated that when he is free to set his own course, he is far from a war monger.
The major difference between Obama and Bush on this issue rests in their thought and approach. Bush was guided by an ideological doctrine that applied to all shapes and sizes of situations. His policy when it came to the question of intervention was literally to shoot first and ask questions later. Bush was guided by emotions, most specifically a fear based national security policy. Bush used fear as both a political strategy at home, and as a justification the invasion of Iraq.
Obama is different. Obama doesn’t have a doctrine. Instead this president will make decisions on issues of action and intervention on a case by case basis. He will pragmatically do a cost/benefit analysis and determine if the cost to our nation is worth the benefits that would be gained by the action. Obama is making his decisions based on intellect instead of emotion. If George W. Bush led with his gut, Obama leads with his mind.
Maddow didn’t use the term but Obama’s policy could best be described as humanitarian pragmatism. Humanitarian concerns do factor in to the decision making process, but the president will be pragmatic about how much the nation can do. Unlike Bush, Obama isn’t about to treat the military like indefatigable supermen and women.
In her comments Rachel Maddow kept referring to Obama’s pragmatism, and this provides the best vantage point for examining Obama’s values and decision making process.
In his speech Obama had to answer the question of why Libya, but he also needed to reassure an exhausted and skeptical America that he wasn’t getting her into another unending conflict. Obama did both tonight, and as Maddow pointed out gone are the days of unilateral action. We are moving into an era of pragmatic coalition building.
America has replaced Bush’s gut with Obama’s brain. Hope has replaced fear, and the intrinsic human desire for freedom has replaced defensive policies of liberty at gunpoint.
Change has finally come to a decade’s worth of war.