President Obama’s speechwriters apparently couldn’t be bothered to rewrite his speech as events overtook it. They simply tacked on the diplomatic update to the case for military action. The diplomatic update should have explained how Vladimir Putin ate Obama’s lunch, but there was nothing so forthright in the speech. The White House has posted the text of the speech here.
As usual I looked for a statement of the national interest of the United States in the case for action. As usual, it was hypothetical and attenuated at best. The heart of it was pure R2P. As Stanley Kurtz observes, this was a Samantha Power speech. I give Obama credit for brevity.
After proclaiming the diplomatic exit from the corner he had painted himself into, Obama asserted:
America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.
When we can do good with slight effort (and help ourselves too!), we should do it. “That’s what makes America different.” Call it the Obama doctrine.
This is American exceptionalism filtered through the mind of a man who doesn’t believe it. He counts on us to have short memories. It wasn’t so long ago that Obama put it this way: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Last night Obama gave us his soupy version of American exceptionalism for dummies: exceptionalism as the last refuge of a bumbling fool.