Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya without launching a full-scale attack perplexed Republicans, who first accused him of being too willing to involve the U.S. in an unnecessary war and then accused him of being too willing to let other countries take the lead in supporting the Libyan rebels. Obama dismissed the criticism, confident that his plan to “lead from behind” by quietly contributing American air support to a NATO coalition could succeed. The Libyan rebels’ recent success shows that his strategy worked, and the Republicans’ baseless criticism missed the point.
The Republicans viewed the United States’ participation in a coalition led by NATO troops as disrespectful to American exceptionalism — the idea that America is the greatest and most powerful nation in the world, and as such has a duty to make the world more like it. Republicans quickly stereotyped him as being at best naive and at worst anti-American, for allowing other countries — especially European countries — to lead the NATO operation supporting Libyan rebels.