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Libya intervention: Obama's speech won't quiet the critics

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When he finally spoke at length to the nation Monday evening about the U.S. military intervention in Libya -- a speech some aides acknowledged would have been better if it had come earlier -- President Obama needed to answer at least three basic questions:

Why are we intervening in Libya's civil war? How deeply are we committed? And how long will we stay involved if Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi doesn't do us the favor of falling soon? And how would Obama have us distinguish Libya from other Arab countries in upheaval -- from Bahrain, say, or Yemen or Syria?

Obama gave a clear answer to the first question but only half-complete ones to the other two.

Why are we intervening? Mostly for humanitarian reasons -- "our responsibilities to our fellow human beings," Obama said. He added that a victory by Kadafi would also have adverse effects on more traditional U.S. interests by sending refugees into Egypt and sending other dictators the message that repression works. But it was striking how much emphasis Obama put on his own brand of American exceptionalism. "Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries," he said. "The United States of America is different."

How long will we stay? Still not clear. Obama made it clear that he wants U.S. military action to be limited, with no American boots on the ground. But he also made it clear that he intends to persist until Kadafi is out. "It may not happen overnight," he said, but "history is not on his" -- Kadafi’s -- "side."

And why intervene in Libya but not, say, in Syria, where the government is just as repressive? Obama said Libya was a special case. "At this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale," he said. "We had a unique ability to stop that violence."

Stop asking for one clear principle, he said. There is no easy rule; the decision depends on the particular costs and benefits in each case. "It is true that America cannot use our military whenever repression occurs," he said. "But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right."

Monday's speech won't quiet Obama's critics or satisfy every citizen's legitimate concerns. It left too many loose ends. There are plenty of questions to ask beyond those three. So the president has a lot more talking -- and listening -- to do. But at least he's made a start.

RELATED:

Libya: What's better -- a plan or saving lives?

Editorial: The Libya calculation

Doyle McManus: Obama's nuanced call to arms in Libya

Tim Rutten: Does duty call in Libya?

--Doyle McManus

Photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

 

Comments () | Archives (24)

The comments to this entry are closed.

mac

Wonder what Obama will say when Muammar runs all over these kids and shells Benghazi.

mc

kadafi must go, just not with any direct military conflict. 'kay.........

Windfall

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation… and I was too born in Hawaii my mother just forgot to go to the hospital so I don’t have no birfcerfiticket mon.”

- Clueless Comrade Barry, aka The Peter Principle in (Affirmative) Action

And the difference between Kadhafi and Hussein and Ahmadinejad and Assad and Chavez and Castro and Mugabe and al-Bashir and Jung-Ill is...?

Those who would ask such a question just don’t understand this president’s decision-making process.

Comrade Barry has a White House Wheel of Fortune with the names and faces of a dozen of the world's most troublesome tyrants on it - each separated by black spaces alternately labeled "free space" and "lose a turn".

On the first Thursday of every fourth month, Susan Rice comes into the White House and spins the wheel. If it lands on a tyrant, they then go to their Official White House 8 Ball.

When they “go 8 Ball”, Hillary Clinton is called in to shake and turn up the decision assisting device.

Usually, something comes up like, “reply hazy, try again” or “concentrate and ask again”.

Occasionally, they get an “outlook good” or “signs point to yes” but they can’t actually take action unless they get a “without a doubt”.

This past week, Susan Rice’s spin landed on Kadhafi and Hillary Clinton turned up a “without a doubt”.

The White House has such confidence in this process that Clueless Comrade Barry didn’t even bother to postpone his vacation in Rio much less ask Congress for an authorizing resolution.

This best and brightest don’t need a Constitution.

They have a Wheel of Fortune and an 8 Ball.

Matt

Surprise, surprise, Sarah Palin was not satisfied by Obama's Libya speech: http://gtcha.me/hLsaKM

William J Bellah

Mister Obama seems to think there are good killers and there are bad killers and that he is a good killer, he must not have read the new testament.

Pasquino Marforio

Obama is a Dictator. A tyrant. His use of force in Libya is Unconstitutional and Unauthorized by Congress.

He is the head of an Illegal Regime.

He is no better than Quadaffi, in ANY sense.

Civi Disobedience is the duty of every citizen, until this dictator is toppled.

Pasquino Marforio

Obama is a Dictator. A tyrant. His use of force in Libya is Unconstitutional and Unauthorized by Congress.

He is the head of an Illegal Regime.

He is no better than Quadaffi, in ANY sense.

Civil Disobedience is the duty of every citizen, until this dictator is toppled.

Pasquino Marforio

Obama is a Dictator. A tyrant. His use of force in Libya is Unconstitutional and Unauthorized by Congress.

He is the head of an Illegal Regime.

He is no better than Quadaffi, in ANY sense.

Civil Disobedience is the duty of every citizen, until this dictator is toppled.

Pasquino Marforio

Obama is a Dictator. A tyrant. His use of force in Libya is Unconstitutional and Unauthorized by Congress.

He is the head of an Illegal Regime.

He is no better than Quadaffi, in ANY sense.

Civil Disobedience is the duty of every citizen, until this dictator is toppled.

Pasquino Marforio

Obama is a Dictator. A tyrant. His use of force in Libya is Unconstitutional and Unauthorized by Congress.

He is the head of an Illegal Regime.

He is no better than Quadaffi, in ANY sense.

Civil Disobedience is the duty of every citizen, until this dictator is toppled.

Dave Parker

As the comments demonstrate, the short version of this essay would read "dog bites man." Given the Republican reaction to everything Obama has done in the domestic policy arena, did you really think that there would be no manufactured disagreement on Libya?

Willie

The Critics are never satisfied. Whatever Obama does will not satisfy people that don't think Obama is American enough, White enough or is a Socialist or a Crypto Cannibal Mau Mau Kenyan Tribesman with an Anti Colonial mindset. The usual suspects will rail and screech and hysterically warn of the Nation’s doom whatever Obama does. Just ignore the critics and move along, folks. There is nothing new to see here.

Pasquino Marforio

The POTUS is authorized to commit military forces only under 3 conditions;

1. declaration of war from Congress
2. statutory authority from Congress
3 a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

noticeably absent, as legal authorities;

1. UN resolutions
2. Arab League statements
3. NATO decisions
4. Help desk tickets submitted by Libyans fighting Libyans

This is an illegal use of the United States Military.

Obama is a dictator. Obama is an unconstitutional tyrant.


Obama's Administration is an illegal regime.

Civil Disobedience is the duty of all citizens until this despot is overthrown.

Impeach him now.

Pasquino Marforio

The POTUS is authorized to commit military forces only under 3 conditions;

1. declaration of war from Congress
2. statutory authority from Congress
3 a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

noticeably absent, as legal authorities;

1. UN resolutions
2. Arab League statements
3. NATO decisions
4. Help desk tickets submitted by Libyans fighting Libyans

This is an illegal use of the United States Military.

Obama is a dictator. Obama is an unconstitutional tyrant.


Obama's Administration is an illegal regime.

Civil Disobedience is the duty of all citizens until this despot is overthrown.

Impeach him now.

Pasquino Marforio

The POTUS is authorized to commit military forces only under 3 conditions;

1. declaration of war from Congress
2. statutory authority from Congress
3 a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

noticeably absent, as legal authorities;

1. UN resolutions
2. Arab League statements
3. NATO decisions
4. Help desk tickets submitted by Libyans fighting Libyans

This is an illegal use of the United States Military.

Obama is a dictator. Obama is an unconstitutional tyrant.


Obama's Administration is an illegal regime.

Civil Disobedience is the duty of all citizens until this despot is overthrown.

Impeach him now.

Pasquino Marforio

The POTUS is authorized to commit military forces only under 3 conditions;

1. declaration of war from Congress
2. statutory authority from Congress
3 a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

noticeably absent, as legal authorities;

1. UN resolutions
2. Arab League statements
3. NATO decisions
4. Help desk tickets submitted by Libyans fighting Libyans

This is an illegal use of the United States Military.

Obama is a dictator. Obama is an unconstitutional tyrant.


Obama's Administration is an illegal regime.

Civil Disobedience is the duty of all citizens until this despot is overthrown.

Impeach him now.

Pasquino Marforio

The POTUS is authorized to commit military forces only under 3 conditions;

1. declaration of war from Congress
2. statutory authority from Congress
3 a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

noticeably absent, as legal authorities;

1. UN resolutions
2. Arab League statements
3. NATO decisions
4. Help desk tickets submitted by Libyans fighting Libyans

This is an illegal use of the United States Military.

Obama is a dictator. Obama is an unconstitutional tyrant.


Obama's Administration is an illegal regime.

Civil Disobedience is the duty of all citizens until this despot is overthrown.

Impeach him now.

Site internet Lyon

How long will we stay?

Libya = Irak

ackack

Damn right we won't be quiet.

Military adventurism at the same time we don't fund two wars already, and are cutting social safety nets for our own poor.

'Nuff said.

Mitchell Young

Uh, the folks in the tanks and airfields and anti-aircraft installations we are bombing are also 'people'. And if and when the 'rebels' win, there will almost certainly be reprisals against the areas which -- according to all accounts -- sincerely support Khaddafi.

BTW there are reasons to support Khaddafi -- as an Arab/North African country it has done pretty well -- so much so that it attracts a lot of immigrants. The Times is going to have to tie itself in intellectual knots when many of those immigrants (often sub-Saharan Africans) are expelled or worse as punishment for their quite rational support of the man who allowed them to settle and work Libya. In fact this very publication has reported reprisals against immigrants are already happening.
---
Libyan rebels appear to take leaf from Kadafi's playbook
http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/24/world/la-fg-libya-prisoners-20110324

Opposition officials in Benghazi, whose wide sweeps to detain alleged Kadafi supporters have drawn criticism, take journalists on a tightly controlled tour of detention centers. Many detainees say they're immigrant workers and deny fighting for Kadafi.
----

The LAT is always on the alert for 'xenophobia' at home, by which it means any support for enforcement of immigration laws, or the deviationist view that mass immigration might not be beneficial to the receiving population. At the same time it is suggesting we provide -- at great expense-- close air support to 'xenophobes' abroad.

ackack

Pasquino, we get it! You're passionate and want to make a point.

Stop the multiple posting already.

ackack

Pasquino, we get it! You're passionate and want to make a point.

Stop the multiple posting already.

Payom I.

PEOPLE stop posting up misinformation that he never got congressional approval/ declaration from Congress! Last time I checked the senate is a branch of Congress right??
http://senatus.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/senate-adopts-libya-resolution/
This declaration of war by Congress specifically calls and allows for taking it to UN for a No - Fly Zone and last I checked the US was part of the UN.

CBS from the West

The part of the constitution that gives the power to declare war to Congress has been lying in the dust, or, perhaps, trampled in the mud, ever since Korea. No surprise this time around.

More substantively, what is being proposed seems incoherent. We are providing military support for the rebels. But we don't really know who they are or how they would govern Libya if they succeed in ousting Qaddafi. Qaddafi, like so many national rulers, is scum of the earth. But is the opposition any better? Nobody seems to know; or at least nobody will say. Or is this just a turf war between Bloods and Crips, with the US military backing one side?

Obama says that the military mission's goal is limited to preventing the massacre of civilians, not regime change. But this lacks credibility. Why will diplomatic means succeed in forcing Qaddafi from power? And even if it does work that way, can we really let this end with Qaddafi still alive? Remember Locherbie? That was _before_ we ever did anything to Qaddafi to really make him hate us. Just imagine what kind of terrorist attack on us he will organize from exile--it will make 9/11 look like a tea party.

I simply cannot believe that the US will permit this to end with Qaddafi still alive, even if deposed. Whether we say so or not, this mission will ultimately expand to include regime change. And as Obama himself pointed out in his speech, we've already seen in Iraq what that means.


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