I live-tweeted the speech, so I have, as a result, fragmented thoughts on it. The best summary I had was: ""with great but finite power comes selective responsibility with friends." The US cannot intervene everywhere nor should it, but when we have enough agreement to do so (with burden-sharing) and can make a difference, we ought to do so. A couple of key ingredients in this were/are: allies and unique capabilities.
First, It is pretty clear that the French and British were much more interested in this, and they convinced the US to go along. Kind of the opposite of Iraq in 2003. The emphasis on burden-sharing was definitely a way to distinguish this effort from Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. Of course, we still have heaps of caveats and other restrictions constraining the commanders of the Libyan mission. Moreover, the most deceptive part of the speech was the idea that shifting from US-led to NATO-led would mean the US is significantly less involved. Um, we are a member of NATO, and we tend to do lots of the heavy lifting (see below), so saying it is moving from US to NATO is significant but not as much as it played here.
Second, the US does have unique capabilities. In my year in the Pentagon, the phrase was "low density/high demand" referring to those capabilities that were seen as both very necessary and very scarce. In this case, that would be many of the surveillance capabilities that have facilitated accurate targeting, probably the refueling aircraft, and certainly the Tomahawks. On day one, over 120 accurate cruise missiles were launched at Libyan command and control centers, air defenses and so on. Two of those were British missiles, and the rest were American. Could the French and British do this without the US? Yes, but it would have taken longer to gain complete control over the air, the targeting probably would have been less accurate (with more collateral damage), and the rebels would have had a harder time reversing the momentum.
There are complex issues about whether to apply responsibility to protect consistently and how this speech fits into a larger Obama doctrine. Luckily, the Duck of Minerva has folks who address these issues quite clearly, with Stephanie Calvin addressing the former and Dan Nexon the latter. My own take regarding consistency is that Churchill was right about foolish consistency. The only way to be consistent on R2P is to do nothing anywhere. There is no way the US or the world can intervene everywhere. So, the real question is: what is the criteria by which countries discriminate? For ethnic groups, I
In terms of doctrine, I still think pragmatists by definition cannot really be doctrinaire. Hence my snarky take of selective responsibility with friends.
There will be plenty of stuff on the net this morning about the speech. Hopefully, we can all wade through it and still make progress on our day jobs.