The Obama Doctrine’s UN Nexus

By Morgan Norval l April 4, 2011 Photo of Susan E. Rice
Obama’s Libya Speech                      Power leaves the West Wing                            UN Amb. Susan Rice


President Obama’s evolving foreign policy doctrine solidified over Libya.

It can simply be described as the interventionist pursuit of human rights ideology or the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine under the United Nations umbrella of multilateralism.

The driving forces behind R2P within the Obama administration are the president’s “close and trusted advisor” Susan Rice, now the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and Samantha Power, the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council. R2P has in fact become Obama’s foreign policy doctrine.

According to her State Department biography, Rice “believes the United Nations has a vital role in advancing international peace….to strengthen respect for human rights” and combating genocide. Power, the Dublin-born human rights activist, received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for her book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. While Rwanda in 1994 was clearly a case of genocide, Libya today is unmistakably a civil war.

At the UN Security Council, Rice supported and voted in favor of resolution 1973 ‘to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country’ according to press release SC/10200 issued on March 17, 2011. Resolution 1973 states in part, “Reiterating the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect the Libyan population and reaffirming that parties to armed conflicts bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians.”

Power’s influence can be detected throughout President Obama’s March 28th National Defense University (NDU) speech on U.S. intervention in Libya contained in phrases and lines such as: “we have a responsibility to act; America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass a historic resolution that authorized a no-fly zone to stop the regime’s attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people; and, secure[d] an international mandate to protect civilians.”

And, yes, the image and power of the UN must be upheld at any cost. This includes the military costs incurred by the U.S. taxpayer for Obama’s Libyan humanitarian intervention not to mention placing the UN Charter ahead of the U.S. Constitution evidenced when Obama bypassed the U.S. Congress and went directly to the UN Security Council for authorization. “The writ of the United Nations Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling that institution’s future credibility to uphold global peace and security,” Obama stated at the NDU in Washington.

Well, one might ask Mr. Obama, “What about concern for the Constitution?”

Michael W. Doyle, professor of international affairs, law, and political science at Columbia University in a March 20, 2011 Snapshot article for Foreign Affairs, entitled “The Folly of Protection” describes how the R2P concept, advocated by nongovernmental organizations in 2005, emanated from Secretary General Kofi Annan’s plea before the UN General Assembly both in 1999 and 2000 in view of Rwanda and Srebrenica. Ultimately, R2P derived from the 2001 report of the International Commission on Intervention in State Sovereignty (ICISS) chaired by Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun. Doyle writes:

“In classic United Nations Security Council language, Resolution 1973, passed on March 17, 2011, authorized UN member states to ‘take all necessary measures . . . to protect civilians and civilian population areas in Libya by establishing a no-fly zone and enforcing an arms embargo against Colonel Muammar al-Qadaffi’s regime. The resolution gave teeth to the much-heralded ‘responsibility to protect’ – which, according to the 2005 UN World Summit Outcome, is the responsibility of the international community to ‘help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.’”

It is humanitarian hawks like Susan Rice and Samantha Power who are pushing doctrines such as the “Responsibility to Protect” which underlies the coalition’s military effort to wage war on Libya and to oust Qaddafi. R2P promotes global governance and serves to compel the “international community” to override borders in order to use military force under certain conditions set by this same “international community.” Underlying this, and the crux of it, is the idea that a nation’s sovereignty is not a privilege but a responsibility.

It is seen as a “responsibility” but for whom?

Cited in the ICISS report are the R2P core principles which specify: “State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.”

It was George Soros in a 2004 issue of Foreign Policy magazine in an article entitled: “The People’s Sovereignty: How a New Twist on an Old Idea Can Protect the World’s Most Vulnerable Populations,” who wrote, “true sovereignty belongs to the people, who in turn delegate it to their governments.” Sounds like Civics 101 but there is a fly in the ointment.

Soros continues in the article: “If governments abuse the authority entrusted to them and citizens have no opportunity to correct such abuses, outside interference is justified. By specifying that sovereignty is based on the people, the international community can penetrate nation-states’ borders to protect the rights of citizens . . .”

Soros is the financial Godfather to many liberal left-wing groups and causes via his Open Society Institute established in 1993. Since then, he has contributed millions upon millions of dollars to those groups pushing his international, anti-American socialist agenda. A March 29, 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal (Unreported Soros Event Aims to Remake Entire Global Economy) notes Soros’ anti-capitalist mentality: “the main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.” This line of thinking makes the U.S. subservient to international bodies such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations. Soros wrote in 1998: “Insofar as there are collective interests that transcend state boundaries, the sovereignty of states must be subordinated to international law and international institutions.” Obama agrees with the “Responsibility to Protect” rational behind the U.S. Libyan intervention, which dovetails nicely with Soros’ global view.

Soros’ Open Society Institute also helps fund the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect organization, which is the world’s leading champion of the R2P doctrine. He opens his checkbook to many other left-wing anti-American groups.

Writing in the London Daily Telegraph, George Grant claims the UN action in Libya represents a shift toward a more interventionist UN role. “On a number of levels,” he wrote, “this resolution is historic, but perhaps the most important to the UN-recognized doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect.” No doubt Obama subscribes to Grant’s assessment.

The “Responsibility to Protect” evolves from liberal internationalism, a foreign policy doctrine that argues the liberal state should intervene in other sovereign states in order to pursue liberal objectives. Current versions of this liberal vigilantism flowed from the thoughts and actions of President Woodrow Wilson.

R2P evolves naturally from the interventionist Wilsonian core of internationalism and, the situation in Libya was a way to advance Wilsonian internationalism, while at the same time revealing the Obama Administration foreign policy. In military historian Victor Davis Hanson’s words, it is “…that liberal interventions are tough, compassionate, and competent; subordination to the United Nations, the Arab League, and Europe; outsourcing of congressional approval to international prerogatives; using the U.S. military not for U.S. interests but for ‘humanitarian concerns’ to stop ‘genocide.’ And on and on.” Hanson’s words are at the heart of the Obama Doctrine.

Obama, however, would do well to ponder the words of Walter Russell Mead, the liberal professor of international relations at Bard University. He wrote on his March 30, 2011 blog, The American Interest:

“The Wilsonians now have their war; they also now have their president. Barack Obama’s inner Woodrow Wilson has clearly won out; he has nailed his colors to the mast of liberal international foreign policies. The cautious Jeffersonian realists have lost one policy battle after another in this administration. Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn law (‘if you break it, you own it’) has been cast to the winds. A president who won his party’s nomination as the most consistent opponent of unpopular intervention abroad has become an apostle of liberal war. Not since Saul went to Damascus has there been such a dramatic conversion.”

President Obama’s interventionist foreign policy doctrine, R2P, is now fully established and its key disciples, Susan Rice and Samantha Power, are firmly in control. The “Responsibility to Protect” concept has its roots in the UN General Assembly and the report its ICISS members produced in 2001. The surrender of American sovereignty to the United Nations is now official U.S. policy.

Morgan Norval is the founder and Executive Director of the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research and a contributor to

SFPPR News & Analysis.