Rick Santorum's critique of Obama's foreign policy doesn't withstand scrutiny.
Hadn't the president just launched a military operation in Libya based in part on the same kind of moral imperatives Santorum had discussed in his speech? "There will be times … when our safety is not directly threatened but our interests and values are," Obama said in March. He talked about "our responsibilities to our fellow human beings," universal rights, and the core principles Americans share with those fighting Qaddafi. He cited America's unique history—"born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free."
Santorum dismissed the idea. "Why didn't he get involved when there was an opportunity four or five days into this conflict, when they were asking for our help; why didn't he get involved if freedom is the watch word?" He also wondered why, if the president cared about freedom, he stopped short of finishing the job and overthrowing Qaddafi.
Santorum's foreign policy vision, despite his talk of America's moral force and the obligation to support freedom, is a realist approach. He said he wasn't sure he would have intervened in Libya. The freedom of oppressed Libyan citizens was not reason enough. He also criticized the United States for not sticking with its longtime ally, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
Substantively Santorum may be right, but if Obama failed in those cases it was in part because he put too much emphasis on supporting the aspirations of the protesters demanding freedom. He behaved like the kind of president Santorum said he would like to be.
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