Republished Courtesy the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Having served as a Public Diplomacy Officer at the U.S. Mission to NATO during the Bush regime when Americans were almost universally hated by Europeans and the world, I have seen the repercussions of the American tendency to deploy its military might to solve world conflicts. After an outpouring of good will towards our nation after September 11, our hasty actions in Iraq made us, in the world’s eye, arrogant, trigger happy strongmen who cared little about the opinion of the rest of the world.
The killing of Muammar Gaddafi by his own countrymen was historic. For the first time in recent history, America has helped empower a country’s oppressed masses to free themselves from the shackles of a ruthless dictator without going in with guns blazing. And we have done so with the support of the international community. This is a major departure from the modus operandi of previous Administrations.
President Obama clearly realizes a fundamental truth that seemed to escape previous Administrations: the only way to help people is by empowering them to help themselves. Then the victory is doubly sweet. Although much maligned for his failure to jump into battle in Libya, the facts reflect that acting through NATO to empower those fighting for their freedom was the right approach.
As a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, I have seen the failure of programs that try to “solve the problems” of other nations. What is much more successful is helping those who are already making the effort to create positive change.
Those who criticize President Obama’s multilateral approach should realize that he is also able to act unilaterally when and if the situation requires. He took an immense risk going into the sovereign nation of Pakistan to take out Osama Bin Ladin without informing the Pakistanis. Previous efforts to take out America’s Enemy Number 1 failed precisely because we shared information with the corrupt Pakistani administration that was focused on preserving the specter of terrorism in order to keep billions of dollars in aid pouring in.
Let this be a lesson for future Administrations. Let’s help the poor and the oppressed of the world not by giving handouts or fighting their battles. Let’s provide them with the tools necessary to achieve their goals. Only when there is a real commitment to effect change within the affected community will true change occur.