Advancing a Free Society

Obama on regime change: Better than Bush?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Like my colleague Peter Feaver, I found Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications Ben Rhodes' interview with FP's Josh Rogin troubling. I share Peter's concern that the Obama Administration is early to the party of claiming credit and is disrespectful to the commitments and sacrifices our allies have made in other wars. But even beyond the unseemliness of claiming credit where others have fought and died, the Obama Administration's strategy of regime change neither encourages regime change nor addresses the hard cases where American national interests are threatened.

It is absolutely true that if local forces rebel and receive sufficient external support, they can change their countries, and that change has the greatest domestic legitimacy and can be achieved at a very low price to the United States. But it also means that we will not actually change regimes; we will advocate insurgencies against governments and assist at the margins. That is a legitimate strategy. It is not, however, one in which we should be claiming credit for the outcome. We have been marginal players in Libya, and our efforts do not merit the accolades the Administration is giving itself.

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