Liberty was the sole animating force behind the American Revolution and is the primary intellectual foundation for the existence of the United State Constitution.  Equality, democracy, independence, diversity, economy... all of these and many other concepts played supporting roles in one way or another but all of them exist mostly as facilitators of the primary objective:  liberty.  It's important for Americans to understand this.

 

Take the issue in Libya as a brief example.  Set aside the confusion and criticism surrounding the "Obama Doctrine" or whether it's necessary for us to be there and rather consider the President's approach.  It's important to the president that Libya choose its own destiny - or rather that America at least not be perceived as choosing that destiny for Libyans.  America should act as a referee with general international approval to enforce some vague idea of a level battle field but not as a unilateral enforcer of American values and American interests.  This is a radical departure from American precedent.

 

What is the pre-eminent reason behind this strategy?  Why are we there?  The central unspoken assumption behind the "Obama Doctrine" is that it's right to prevent genocide but not decide Libya's fate.  It should be a fair fight though fight it must be.  This raises many questions.  How do we know what "the people" of Libya want when decisions

are being made by cruise missles and rocket launchers?  How do we know the side we support won't ethnically cleanse the side we oppose?  We know clearly that Gadhafi is wrong but how do we know the rebels are right and how do we know that whoever replaces Gadhafi will be an improvement?

 

Obama vociferously opposed Bush's Iraq decision and he's desperately trying to make his Libya policy stand out in contrast.  Rather than act with what he and his administration see as American hubris by forcing other countries to live by the standards and values Americans think are right, he's trying to toe the line between humanitarianism andLibya's supposed "right" to self determination.  We will prevent genocide but we will not remove Gadhafi.  We will act as one of many international voices rather than force American values down the throat of the rest of the world. He's still of course using military force to assert his own values but those values are different and he seems to think superior to pervious generations and administrations.

 

All of which brings us back to liberty.  If the "Arab Spring" has taught us anything this year, it's that all people desire to be free.  Whether you're Arab, Asian, Black, White, Male or Female; human beings at their core want to be free to make their own decisions about how they should live.  Ultimately, that is the heart of these American values that Obama seems so ashamed to aggressively promote.  

 

This exerpt from Lord Acton demonstrates the point that liberty was of primary importance in the heart of the American Revolution.  He articulates an often overlooked detail of our revolution:  that England's claims were minor from a material perspective but unacceptable from an intellectual perspective.  The American Revolution is singular in that it did not arise from economics or as an armed revolt against grave tyranny or injustice.  Rather, it was a revolt of principle.  American revolutionaries did not fight for a better material life, they risked comfort and material wealth for the principle of a free life.  This is the heart of American exceptionalism.  It's the North Star by which Americans judge the difference between right and wrong.  Whether our participation in Libya is right or wrong, one thing is painfully clear:  this president is not comfortable with the concept of American exeptionalism.  Above all other reasons, this is why Americans are so uncomfortable with him.

 

"The primitive fathers of the United States began by preferring abstract moral principle to the letter of the law and the spirit of the Constitution.  But they went farther.  Not only was their grievance difficult to substantiate at law, but it was trivial in extent.  The claim of England was not evidently disproved, and even if it was unjust, the injustice practically was not hard to bear.  The suffering that would be caused by submission was immeasurably less than the suffering that must follow resistance, and it was more uncertain and remote.  The utilitarian argument was loud in favour of obedience and loyalty.  But if interest was on one side, there was a manifest principle on the other - a principle so sacred and so clear as imperatively to demand the sacrifice of men's lives, of their families and their fortune.  They resolved to give up everything, not to escape from actual oppression, but to honour a precept of unwritten law. 

 

That was the transatlantic discovery in the theory of political duty, the light that came over the ocean.  It represented liberty not as a comparative release from tyranny, but as a thing so divine that the existence of society must be staked to prevent even the least constructive infraction of its sovereign right.  'A free people,' said Dickinson, 'can never be too quick in observing nor too firm in opposing the beginnings of alteration either in form or reality, respecting institutions formed for their security.  The first kind are commonly not only specious, but small at the beginning, they spread over the multitude in such a manner as to touch individuals but slightly.  Every free state should incessantly watch, and instantly take alarm at any addition being made to the power exercised over them.' 

 

Who are free people?  not those over whom government is reasonably and equitably exercised; but those who live under a government so constitutionally checked and controlled that proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised.  The contest was plainly a contest of principle, and was conducted entirely on principle by both parties.  'The amount of taxes proposed to be raised,' said Marshall, the greatest of constitutional lawyers, 'was too inconsiderable to interest the people of either country.'  I will add the words of Daniel Webseter, the great expounder of the Constitution, who is the most eloquent of the Americans, and stands, in politics, next to Burke:  'The Parliament of Great Britain asserted a right to tax the Colonies in all cases whatsoever; and it was precisely on this question that they made the Revolution turn.  The amount of taxation was trifling, but the claim itself was inconsistent with liberty, and that was in their eyes enough.  It was against the recital of an act of Parliament, rather than against any suffering under its enactment, that they took up arms.  They went to war against a preamble.  they fought seven years against a declaration.  They saw in the claim of the British Parliament a seminal principle of mischief, the germ of unjust power.’