By James Dohnert
On Tuesday March 29th, President Obama addressed the critics of his decision to commit American forces in Libya during a nationally televised speech at the National Defense University. Sticking to a message of moral justification and global partnership, he laid out what some commentators are declaring is effectively his doctrine for foreign policy.
It is a policy that echoes an American obligation to the world while separating itself from the concepts of presidents that came before. "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,” said the president in response to critics who felt the Libyan problem is not ours to bear.
Much like former President Bill Clinton did when he acted to stop the mass killings in the Balkans, Obama used American military might to prevent the death of innocents abroad. And by doing so, he reiterated the ideal of an American responsibility to the global community, one that assists in aiding humanity as a whole and attempts to offer a helping hand in places like the politically distraught nation of Libya.
Aware of the criticism that he wasn’t doing enough and should attempt to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the president said, “Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
Instead he called for assistance to Libyan rebels already on the ground and reiterated the need for support from allies across the globe. “Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well, to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs,” the president said.
The president’s call for cooperation and coalitions is where he differs from his predecessor President George W. Bush. During a speech to The Commonwealth Club in 2002, Bush stated, “Across the world, governments have heard this message: You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists.”
President Obama did not echo the ex-president's mentality of us-against-them in 2011. Stating that “the burden of action should not be America's alone," the president made it clear that his concept of a better world requires cooperation.
By justifying his actions to critics on the Left and the Right, he maintains that his presidency is both different and similar to those that came before them. Setting himself apart while reminding the world of leaders from the past Obama continues to shape a legacy that will undoubtedly be remembered for a long time.
You can read former President Bush’s entire 2002 speech online; also, to voice your opinion on the Libya situation, be sure to join the Commonwealth Club's Middle East discussion group on April the 25th.
This past Monday marked the 32nd anniversary of the accident at Three Mile Island. As Japan deals with its own nuclear crisis, the anniversary seems more apt than usual.
On March 28, 1979, a partial nuclear meltdown occurred at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The mishap still remains the most significant accident in the history of the U.S. commercial nuclear power generating industry.
The accident at TMI was created because of a combination of mechanical failure and human error. At the time nuclear power was a newly growing industry, lacking key regulation and the proper plans to deal with such a catastrophe. Following the accident, safeguards were put in place and America saw a decline in nuclear reactor construction. The priority was made to make sure an incident on this scale could be prevented, and mechanisms were put in place to be prepared if the worst-case scenario should occur.
But as Japan still grapples with its nuclear issues, many people are beginning to wonder: Can we really ever truly be prepared? How do we ready nuclear power plants for the unexpected? Are we ready for another Three Mile Island?
The Commonwealth Club gives you the chance to ask these kinds of questions and join the debate with upcoming lectures like Nuclear Power: Setting Sun? Join us for a conversation about nuclear renewable electricity in an era of soaring oil prices and resurgent doubts about nuclear safety.
Also be sure to check out a previously recorded talk on the subject by listing to Nuclear Energy: Fueling the Future? Hear what was being said about nuclear energy in 2008 and what experts were saying about nuclear energy before it was headline news.
And make sure to come to the next Environmental and Natural Resources Planning Meeting to discuss the kind of environmental issues you’d like to see discussed at the next Commonwealth Club lecture.
–By James Dohnert
The following books are finalists for the 80th Annual California Book Awards. The winners will be announced the week of April 11th and will be celebrated in an Awards Ceremony on Thursday, June 2, 2011. Buy tickets today!
Camille T. Dungy, Suck on the Marrow. Published by Red Hen Press
Judy Halebsky, SKY=EMPTY. Published by New Issues Poetry & Prose
Barbara Jane Reyes, Diwata. Published by BOA Editions, Ltd
Alexandra Teague, Mortal Geography. Published by Persea
Brian Turner, Phantom Noise. Alice James Books
Yunte Huang, Charlie Chan. Published by W. W. Norton & Co
Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club. Published by HarperOne
Julia Whitty, Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Angie Chau, Quiet As They Come. Published by Ig Publishing
Tim Z. Hernandez, Breathing, In Dust. Published by Texas Tech University Press
Zachary Mason, The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel. Published by Picador
Suzanne Rivecca, Death Is Not An Option: Stories. Published by W. W. Norton & Co.
Zoe Ferraris, City of Veils. Published by Little, Brown and Company
Joan Frank, In Envy Country: Stories. Published by University of Notre Dame Press
Eric Puchner, Model Home. Published by Scribner
Adrienne Sharp, The True Memoirs of Little K. Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel. Published by Coffee House Press
Cecil Castucci, Grandma’s Gloves. With illustrations by Julia Denos. Published by Candlewick
Beverly Gherman, Sparky: the Life and Art of Charles Schulz. Published by Chronicle Books
Rene Colato Lainez, From North to South/Del Norte Al Sur. With illustrations by Joe Cepeda
Barbara Kerley, The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy). With illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham. Published by Scholastic Press
Icy Smith, Half Spoon of Rice: A Survival Story of the Cambodian Genocide. With illustrations by Sopaul Nhem. Published by East West Discovery Press.
Margarita Engle, The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba. Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Ron Koertge, Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs. Published by Candlewick
Dana Reinhardt, The Things a Brother Knows. Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Neal Shusterman, Bruiser. Published by HarperTeen
San Jose public access television CreaTV will air the The Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley’s recent program with John Robbins every Friday this month (March 11, 18, and 25) at 7 pm on Channel 30.
Robbins, the heir to the Baskin-Robbins empire, is the author of The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World.