As the first Tomahawk mis siles rained on Libya, armchair generals rushed to define "The Obama Doctrine." Most assess ments focused on Obama's antiwar statements as a candidate and decisions by past presidents to take military action in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
All fair game -- except the conclusions were flawed. No discussion of Obama's view of a just war is complete unless it examines the impact of his magical thinking.
By that I mean his supreme confidence in his own vision and powers to remake the world. Fueled by a mixture of hubris and faculty-lounge idealism, his words and actions suggest he believes his presidency is exempt from the lessons of history and human nature.
Just as he claimed his election would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal," his wars defy traditional military doctrine. For example, his approach in Libya, as in Afghanistan, features a promise of timed withdrawal, but not a clear mission. In both he talks of "success" but not "victory," leaving the yardstick vague. The refusal to be precise reflects a belief that his intentions are virtuous, as distinct from his predecessors', and that he should be judged on that basis, not on results. His goal in Libya is so abstract that he refuses to call it a "war." That would make it sound brutal -- and ordinary.
We thus meet the term "kinetic military action" as a White House talking point.
Despite the endless slogs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and despite objections from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other brass, the president was confident that Libya would be easy in, easy out and that a civil war in an oil-rich tribal nation would be settled in days. After bypassing Congress and the public to cut a deal at the United Nations, we could fire missiles from ships at sea, drop bombs from 40,000 feet and be home in time for dinner.
It would be so surgical, the commander in chief could take his family on a trip to Brazil and points south while the military went into battle. We wouldn't need a single boot on the ground and could hand command to NATO or France or anybody who wanted it.
Meanwhile, after 42 years in power, a brutal and mad Muammar Qaddafi would see our righteousness, lay down his weapons and quit his throne.
Presto. That's how a just war should end, and this time it would -- because of Obama.
That, I submit, is the real "Obama Doctrine."
That doctrine is not disturbed by the nagging war-gaming questions of "what if." As in, what if Qaddafi refuses to quit? What if he does quit -- what is our plan for Libya? What if Islamists turn it into a safe haven?
Most of Obama's foreign policy is the fruit of the same poisoned tree. The laws of diplomacy were supposed to bend before his transforming breeze. Only they haven't cooperated.
The hot spots are growing, and in exchange for apologies and accommodations, we get more aggression. Not a single new ally has been recruited to our side.
Old friends are dispirited while adversaries such as Iran are emboldened. The "reset" with Russia and the Muslim world turns out to be another word for "retreat."
Despite the era, the challenges for every president are fundamentally similar: Secure America and promote the common good under the laws of the land.
Or, in the words of the presidential oath, "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God."
It's a remarkably concise and direct pledge, demanding only dedication and integrity and a faith in the Almighty. Luck helps, too.
But belief in the magical powers of History's Great Man? That way yields only discord and disaster.
Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor. To continue reading his column on other topics, including the sleepy air traffic controller at Reagan National Airport, click here.