Libya was not a robust showing of liberal-internationalist conviction: The single greatest factor behind the West’s armed intrusion was the surreality of Moammar Gaddafi. If the “colonel” had not been such a nut, if he had bothered to maintain the armed forces on which he squandered his country’s oil wealth, Western concern for the Libyan people would probably have been much less muscular.
Nevertheless, President Obama used American power to liberate a Muslim people. Like George W. Bush, Obama came into office with a narrower, “humbler” conception of America’s interests abroad. In his first visit to the region, he confused the majesty of Islam with the dignity of Muslim potentates. Sept. 11, 2001, transformed Bush. We must wait to see whether the Great Arab Revolt has permanently changed Obama.