When the president spoke after the UN Security Council passed a resolution against Libya, he emphasized the triumph of multilateralism. “The United States is prepared to act as part of an international coalition,” the president said. “American leadership is essential, but that does not mean acting alone — it means shaping the conditions for the international community to act together,” he explained. American action came after diplomatic consultations not only with the United Nations, but also with the Arab League.
President Obama’s willing to bless American military action with a Security Council vote is illuminating, however, because he saw no parallel need to have Congress vote on his plans. Is it possible that Obama sees UN blessing as more important than Congressional approval? This it seems is the starkest difference between George W. Bush and Obama. Bush tried to win both the approval of the United Nations and Congress. He failed in the former, but wasn’t prepared to act without the latter. For Obama, it appears the idea of putting America’s representatives first is quaint, but outmoded in his post-nationalist world.