A Teachable Moment for Barack Obama

The crisis in Libya offers a truly teachable moment for our 44th president.  With Gaddafi's thugs closing in to slaughter, or as was reported yesterday, "cleanse" the city of Benghazi of all opposition, the rebels are crying out for help.  They are pleading for America to come to their aid. 

When the world is at relative peace, Mr. Obama's definition of "exceptionalism" might be reasonable.  The transcript of his comment during a press conference following a NATO meeting in April 2009 records his idea of American exceptionalism:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.

These words of the President are fairly typical of what has passed as thoughtful analysis from the current occupant of the White House.  They are words that would be right at home in the faculty lounge in Chicago or Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

However, these words are clearly not relevant in the real world, particularly in Benghazi.  The men, women and in many cases children who are in rebellion against a national leader who is clearly out of touch with reality are crying out to the one, and only, exceptional nation on the planet.  There have been no reports of calls for help from Britain or Greece.  Nor has any media outlet reported calls for aid to "exceptional" nations such as Iceland, Burundi, Andorra, Bulgaria, Paraguay or Uzbekistan.  Not that these nations bear any stigma, but they are not exceptional in any geopolitical sense.

Over the next few days and weeks, the media, both mainstream and alternative, will report the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Libyans who yearn for liberty.  One can only assume that, to our President at least, these people aren't in any way exceptional either.

The blood of these people, who could have been saved by swift, decisive American action, will be on the hands of Barack Obama.  Of course Mr. Obama's prefers "organic" revolutions.  He prefers (in spite of centuries of historical evidence to the contrary) only those revolutions that are given no external assistance. 

So the president has a chance to learn two valuable lessons from this disaster.  The first lesson concerns "organic" revolutions.  Regardless of his preferences, such revolutions are the result of pure desperation, sadly quixotic, and doomed to failure.

The second lesson concerns his opinion that America is not exceptional.  Mr. Obama's opinion doesn't trump the opinions of the rest of the world.  It is they who call out to AMERICA, and only America, when their small piece of the planet is about to die.  Sadly, no one here is answering the phone.

Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller, Vietnam veteran and libertarian (small "l").  Jim blogs at jimyardley.wordpress.com, or he can be contacted directly at james.v.yardley@gmail.com