News / USA

    Obama Defends US Involvement in Libyan Air Campaign

    President Obama delivers his address on Libya at the National Defense University in Washington, March 28, 2011
    President Obama delivers his address on Libya at the National Defense University in Washington, March 28, 2011

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Explaining his decision to authorize the use of U.S. military force as part of international operations in Libya, President Barack Obama said Monday night that the United States must act when its interests and values are threatened.  The president ruled out seeking regime change in Libya through military means, but he said the United States and other nations will continue to seek Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's departure.

    Listen to President Obama's Speech on Libya:

    The president chose the National Defense University here in Washington for a major address on why he made the decisions he did on Libya, the progress made so far and what he called its significance for the use of America’s military power and broader leadership.

    The president said the United States and its coalition partners intervened to stop "brutal repression" and a massacre of civilians by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, as well as a looming humanitarian crisis.

    "We were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.  We had a unique ability to stop that violence:  an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves.  We also had the ability to stop Gadhafi's forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground," he said.

    In one month, Obama said, the United States worked with international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, and establish a no-fly zone.   He said he kept his pledge to keep the U.S. role limited and not put American troops on the ground.

    President Obama did not directly address criticism from members of Congress about the degree to which he consulted lawmakers on the Libyan operation.  He did speak about a debate in Washington, which he said involved a false choice when it comes to Libya.

    "Some question why America should intervene at all - even in limited ways - in this distant land.  They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world - particularly when we have so many pressing concerns here at home. It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right," he said.

    A new opinion poll shows Americans have mixed reactions about U.S. military involvement in Libya.
    A new opinion poll shows Americans have mixed reactions about U.S. military involvement in Libya.

    Earlier, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said the president had articulated "a wider political objective of regime change in Libya" that does not match the stated objective of military intervention, and posed this question:  

    "What is the role of our military and military alliance in providing support to an opposition that we are only now beginning to understand," he said.

    In his address, President Obama said that although there is no question Libya and the world would be better off with Moammar Gadhafi out of power, he ruled out seeking regime change by military means.

    "If we tried to overthrow Gadhafi by force, our coalition would splinter.  We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground or risk killing many civilians from the air.  The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater.  So would the costs, and our share of the responsibility for what comes next," he said.

    The president said the United States had "gone down that road" in Iraq at a cost of thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly $1 trillion, adding "that is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya."

    Obama spoke as NATO prepares to formally assume command of the Libyan operation, as the bulk of U.S. involvement winds down.  the president's speech also came on the eve of a crucial meeting in London of the United States and other NATO members, the Arab League and Libyan opposition representatives.

    The White House announced that President Obama had spoken earlier with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

    A statement said they agreed that Mr. Gadhafi had "lost any legitimacy to rule and should leave power" and that the Libyan people should determine their own political future.

    President Obama used his address to explain why he considered military action in Libya important against the backdrop of momentous changes in North Africa and in the Middle East.

    "Democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power.  The writ of the U.N. Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling its future credibility to uphold global peace and security.  So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America," he said.

    Saying that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, Obama added that the United States cannot dictate the pace and scope of change, but must stand alongside those who believe in the core principles of universal rights and free expression.

    The United States, he said, should not be afraid to act when its safety is not directly threatened but its interests and values are - including preventing genocide, keeping the peace and ensuring regional security.  But, he said, the burden of action should not be America's alone.

    In initial reaction on Capitol Hill, Republican Senator John McCain said the president adequately explained reasons for intervention in Libya.  But McCain questioned Obama's remarks on regime change.

    Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer said it is essential that Obama continue to inform and consult with Congress as long as American troops remain part of the Libya mission.

    Watch the entire speech:

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora