Obama Discovers the Bush Doctrine

President Obama is doing everything in his power to make everyone forget George Bush. How? By being George Bush. Obama made this all too clear Monday in his longwinded defense of his actions in Libya. The speech outlined what has already been dubbed “the Obama Doctrine.” Unfortunately, the Obama Doctrine sounds eerily similar to his predecessor’s “doctrine”—in fact, it is the Bush Doctrine, nearly word-for-word.

“Facing such clear evidence,” a bold President Bush once said, “we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Obama—not given to originality—told the nation last night that “I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.” In other words, no president needs to have evidence to support an attack. To wait for evidence of a crime would be too risky, and who could risk passing up an opportunity to bomb another Arab country?

While Bush “could not wait,” Obama “refused to wait”—this is the grammatical “change we were hoping for.” Perhaps the change is the fact that Bush’s mission was driven by national interest and Obama’s by humanitarian concern, but preventing “mushroom cloud” sounds humanitarian to me. No matter how you choose to spin it, Obama spent Monday justifying preemptive war.

In case you have forgotten, Bush summarized his doctrine this way: “If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. We must,” he added, “confront the worst threats before they emerge. Obama, of course, clarified the distinction between his position and Bush’s on Monday. We knew that if we waited one more day,” he proclaimed, “Benghazi could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.” Wait! Obama’s clarification actually sounds more like an explanation, of the Bush Doctrine, or at least an example of it. Obama has followed Bush’s entry plan in Libya as dutifully as he’s followed Bush’s exit plan in Iraq. The only difference: no one’s protesting.

The bottom line is this: Obama needs to decide who he wants to be. We had Obama, the defender of civil liberties—then came his endorsement of indefinite detention, Guantanamo Bay, the Patriot Act, and torture of Bradley Manning. We had Obama, the crusader against corporate welfare—then came the corporate bailouts, subsidies, and mandates to buy their services. We had Obama, the protector of patients’ rights—then came his raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and the realization that Obama Care wouldn’t let everyone keep their current health plan. Finally, we had Obama, the Nobel Prize winning champion of peace—then came the Pakistan drone attacks, bombing Yemen, and finally, Libya and Monday’s speech.

Obama may have replaced Bush, but he didn’t replace any of his policies. In fact, he hasn’t even replaced his rhetoric. He still “can’t wait” to jump into any conflict he can justify. Just admit it. Obama plays Bush, only better—he makes people think he’s not.

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Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian.

View all posts by Daniel Bier

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