Of American exceptionalism
In a forceful and uplifting speech Tuesday night, President Barack Obama articulated the scope of America’s involvement in Libya in language clear enough for all but the daft or deliberately contrary to understand.
“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” the president said to a nationally televised audience. “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And, as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”
Through those words, President Obama helped define the true sense of American exceptionalism. The meaning lies not in the use of superior military power, but the moral imperative to rise to the aid of fellow humans in the face of certain brutality or calamity.
To those Republicans feigning opposition to President Obama’s decision to stop Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s slaughter of his own people as his tanks and air force bore down on the outskirts of Benghazi, that nation’s second largest city and an industrial and cultural center, their sincerity must be doubted and their hypocrisy exposed.
Just days before President Obama sent air strikes to stop Gadhafi’s forces, Republican leaders were calling the administration indecisive and slow to respond as the freedom-fighting rebels were being rolled over by Gadhafi’s superior firepower. Moreover, this is the same party that rushed to support President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq on trumped up allegations that country possessed weapons that were non-existent and against a leader who posed no immediate threat to civilians or to Americans. Republicans, who then leapt to embrace one of the most expensive, protracted and nonsensical wars in this nation’s history, now have the gall to suggest Obama acted without clear objectives or a rational reason?
And they don’t drop their heads in shame?
Clearly, the level of American discourse is at an all-time low when partisan opposition attempts to undermine even the most noble of actions by our president, rather than to embrace those actions in the spirit of unity, conviction and pride that we would readily defend so many thousands of people solely out of our common sense of humanity. Not to conquer, not to occupy, not to claim access to valuable natural resources, but simply to prevent mass slaughter.
Questions still must be answered, but Obama’s forceful decision to prevent a humanitarian disaster with precision strikes that effectively accomplished that specific mission was unquestionably the right action to take, as was his decision to now turn military operations over to NATO and let that those forces monitor what rightly is a regional concern. Without being clairvoyant, how much clearer could the president’s actions be?