And it is clear that there is genuine gratitude to the United States for its role — one that was much more than a secondary one, that pushed and prodded NATO to do more, that used American military capacity where the rest of NATO is extremely weak and limited, and that used skillful diplomacy to achieve a highly desirable end.
In a functional political system, there would be bipartisan kudos for a president who has been tough enough to take on his own left while nailing Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, and who has found a new model for American leadership in a resource-constrained and hostile world that can help us navigate through difficult engagements such as the Arab Spring and emerge as a force for freedom and liberty without taking on our own collateral damage.
It may not always work, and it may, as in Libya, take longer to unfold than we would like, but this should be the occasion for cooperation in the national interest, instead of ham-handed, partisan spite of the sort we have just seen from Rubio.
As Libya now struggles in its transition to (we hope) a better form of government, along with Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq, and we navigate through the ongoing battles for change in Yemen and Bahrain among others, there is another critical point that cries out for bipartisan cooperation — the even more pressing need to double-down on our smart power weapons to keep these victories for freedom from becoming Pyrrhic ones.
The U.S. Institute of Peace has its resources on the ground in many of these countries, and the weapons of aid and diplomacy are powerful ones, appreciated far more by our military leaders, such as CIA Director David Petraeus, than by our politicians.
We cannot let the drive for budget discipline, which continually focuses on the sliver of spending in discretionary domestic accounts to the exclusion of the big-ticket items, damage our fundamental national security.
In that kind of climate, foreign aid and diplomacy will lose to more politically potent domestic categories of spending, unless liberals and conservatives alike realize the fearsome price we will pay down the road via mindless cuts now.
Norman Ornstein is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.