Looking for courage in the world? Try the Arab League. Yes, that Arab League.

In comments that explain the Obama administration's paralyzing fear during the first month of the Libyan uprising and its sudden decision to take military action under U.N. auspices, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week credited the "courageous stand" of the Arab League (its seal, above right) for sparking the flip-flop.

She also told Congress that Washington hesitated during the evacuation of American citizens from Tripoli out of fear we would "raise alarm bells around the region and the world that we were about to invade for oil."

Together, the comments show how President Obama and his team have internalized false Arab narratives about American imperialism to the point where they hamper the legitimate exercise of our power.

Welcome to the Neutered States of America, with our interests defined by how many other nations agree with us. Once those interests have been approved by the all-wise "international partners," our military is available for mercenary duty.

Using the Arab League as justification for action against Col. Muammar Qaddafi is especially odd, since it has the wealth and firepower to do the job itself but not the courage. Yet Clinton said its call for a no-fly zone was a "sea change" for a lot of people, apparently including Obama.Until then, he had resisted the idea as too dangerous, even as France and England pushed it.

After the Arab League plea, he almost immediately agreed to a potentially much larger role, with the U.N. resolution authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians.

Even that goal is mushy if it doesn't end Qaddafi's Are we really prepared to preside over the break-up of Libya and permanently protect millions of people who would live in a separate state next door to him?

When the first shots were fired on Saturday, including a barrage of U.S. missiles, Clinton was in Paris. In a clear dig at Obama, she praised the "leadership of President Sarkozy."

Ah, yes, French exceptionalism.

Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor. To continue reading his column on other topics, including New York City Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, click here.