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L.A. Times: Obama Flirts With a Doctrine

Author: Doyle McManus
March 31, 2011


In this op-ed, Doyle McManus ponders whether the U.S. intervention in Libya, or rather the administration's plans for democracy in the region, are beginning to represent an "Obama Doctrine".

Is an Obama Doctrine in foreign policy developing before our eyes?

The president and his aides wave off the idea, at least if it means seeing the U.S.-led military intervention in Libya as a one-size-fits-all model.

"It's important not to take this particular situation and then try to project some sort of Obama Doctrine that we're going to apply in a cookie-cutter fashion across the board," the president said in a television interview Tuesday. "Each country in this region is different."

But then Obama went ahead and sketched the outlines of something that looks, well, like a doctrine in the making. "We want to make sure that governments are not attacking their own citizens," he said. "We want governments that are responsive to their people. And so we'll use all our tools to try to accomplish that."

Obama has insisted that Libya is "a unique situation," a combination of circumstances that's unlikely to recur: a tyrant threatening to massacre his opponents and a strong international consensus to stop him, in a country that's a relatively easy, uncomplicated target. So the use of military force against dictators isn't a doctrine, since it can't be generally applied. Instead, the doctrine lies in the larger commitment Obama has come to after three months of uprisings in the Arab world: that the United States will be on the side of the democrats, and will use "all our tools" — within limits — to try to help them win.

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