Another superb blog post from PM Carpenter. Money quote:
Obama's critics and Republican opponents are naturally all too delighted to confuse his internationalist pragmatism with an absence of principles, when in reality these -- pragmatism and principles -- are no antithesis. It would be a happy world indeed if the constant application of idealism always achieved the principled objectives pursued, yet history indicates its near abject failure in nearly every instance ... whereas our hyperpragmatic presidents, from Washington to Lincoln to FDR, achieved nearly all of their principled goals.
I see no alternative to pragmatism in these times. The core truth is: the US is navigating the currents of Middle Eastern history in a way that cannot be reduced to a doctrine.
Interests and values conflict constantly; every rebellion has its own dynamic; reacting to an authoritarian regime and to a totalitarian regime must be different. The core hypocrisy of the US over the last few decades cannot be simply wished away. And yes, it lingers because oil matters still. Because we have refused to make the tough decisions to make us and the world less reliant on it as an energy source. You go to war with the economy and legacy you have.
That means that almost any action by this administration in this region can be criticized for impurity or inconsistency, or for violating a doctrine, or for representing (God forbid!) a nuanced direction. My own worries about Libya are based on the Libyan case alone. But I could be wrong and I'm going to take stock of this as time goes by. Assessing pragmatism's effects requires a series of non-ideological judgments.