Revolution and Intervention: A Delicate Balance, Destroyed

International law has typically forbidden one or the other, seeing their combination as volatile. Yet current American foreign policy rests on both at once.

Issue: September-October 2014

WHEN HE RAN for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised a new era of restraint in U.S. foreign policy. And in some respects, he has indeed been more restrained than his predecessor. But those looking for a reconsideration of America’s universalist ambitions have been disappointed by Obama’s record. Where it has mattered, there has been no retreat from the revolutionary ends to which George W. Bush committed the United States in his second inaugural address in 2005. Thus Obama (after much agonizing) threw in his lot with those seeking to overthrow Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi by force.

You must be a subscriber of The National Interest to access this article. If you are already a subscriber, please activate your online access. Not a subscriber? Become a subscriber today!