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Searching for an Obama Doctrine

Back in 1986 President Ronald Reagan referred to Moammar Qaddafi as the “Mad Dog of the Middle East” for his actions against American civilians. Twenty-five years later, we find ourselves confronting him again as he and his rebel forces continue to wreck havoc on Libyan civilians.

As the United States, along with France and the United Kingdom, impose air strikes and a no-fly zone over Libya, it is clear that the United States has publically taken the lead militarily thus far. But President Obama stated that we intend to move from a leading to a supportive and logistical role, as we look to transfer military leadership to other allies.

Given our sizable initial engagement coupled with President Obama’s perceived intention to pass leadership to other foreign allies, it seems that the administration is sending mixed messages in terms of our goal in the region. What we need is an outlined mission from the Obama administration as to what role we should play in containing the political unrest that has pervaded the region.

Perhaps what we need is an Obama Doctrine on foreign policy, one that will send a clear message to both our citizens and our allies of what exactly our goals are. President Obama declares that Qaddafi must go, yet we seem to be taking a step in the opposite direction by conveying our interest in backing down as a military contributor.

Security to Fall Victim to Budgetary Cuts?

As Mexican President Felipe Calderon prepares to visit the U.S. on March 3rd to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama, his administration announces that a main topic of their discussion will be the bilateral issue the two leaders face in their struggle against organized crime and drug trafficking. Since 2006, the ongoing war against drug cartels has cost the lives of over 35,000 people and remains a major security issue of both administrations.

Not only are Mexican drug organizations located in over 230 U.S. cities and supply U.S. consumers of the cocaine industry, but violence has escalated, as an American Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was killed in Northern Mexico less than two weeks ago. Sadly, it was not the first time that American officials have been struck by violence linked to drug trafficking. If not now more than ever, the United State’s role in providing aid for Mexico in the fight against drug cartels is essential to the security of not only Mexico but the U.S. as well.

Under the Bush Administration in 2008, the U.S. took a decisive step toward addressing the problem with the establishment of the Merida Initiative, which allocated $1.4 billion in aid programs for equipment, training and intelligence to target the drug cartels and increase security. But continued funding for the now-expired program looks grim as the Obama administration seeks to cut anti-drug assistance by 17.6 percent as outlined in the Fiscal Year 2012 Drug Control Budget. While it is clear that the U.S. must cut federal spending to close the budget deficit, security should not fall victim to budgetary cuts. Providing Mexico with the resources to combat the terrorizing violence that has pervaded both countries is essential to increasing security and decreasing violence. If nothing else, President Calderon’s visit to the U.S. points to the gravity of an issue that surely transcends borders and requires a continued commitment to security. It therefore must remain one aspect of the budget that we should not be willing to cut.

Carly Agresti is a second-year undergraduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She is also the co-founder of The Georgetown Forum.