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LA Times: Obama's Foreign Policy Approach: Act Cautiously, and Not Alone

Author: Paul Richter
September 16, 2012

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President Obama's foreign policy approach is called prudent by supporters, but viewed as timid by his critics.

WASHINGTON — On the afternoon of March 15 last year, President Obama and top advisors sat in the White House Situation Room poring over grainy satellite photos of an armored column thundering down on a largely unprotected Libyan city. Their choices appeared to be stark: Plunge the United States into a new war in the Arab world, or risk the slaughter of thousands.

Obama decided to split the difference — committing the American military for part of the job. That decision has come to exemplify the Obama doctrine: Because Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi's assault on insurgents and civilians didn't directly endanger U.S. security, there was no justification for a major U.S.-led ground assault, the president decided. But, he said, the U.S. could take a role in protecting civilians if allies shared the burden, regional and international groups blessed the effort, and the mission was limited.

"The burden of action should not be America's alone," Obama said in a speech that announced the United States would be one participant in a NATO mission led by France and Britain.

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