President Obama had to speak to the nation about Libya, and he did.
This is no joke. We are at war, and it is his war. It was vital that he explained to the American people the exact purpose of the mission, and what was being done to achieve victory.
This was no time for platitudes or waxing poetic about high speed rail or green energy.
This was when Mr. Obama had to be at his best to reassure a very jittery American public.
His most effective critic has been Charles Krauthammer, who offers what Mr. Obama too often does not…succinctness and clarity.
Yet we only have one Commander in Chief at a time, and Mr. Obama had the oversized ear of the world.
Mr. Obama did not drift off into domestic policy. He stuck to the purpose of the speech the entire 30 minutes.
His remarks were sobering, stern, and provided clarity into his mindset. One can vigorously argue with his view, and I emphatically do. Yet at least this speech was not fluff. It was very substantive, and now the real discussion Americans must have can begin.
Mr. Obama did begin with his necessary self-praise, pointing out that thanks to him, “countless lives have been saved.”
He then waxed poetic about past military ventures that had nothing to do with him.
It would not be an Obama speech without meaningless platitudes.
“When our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act.”
Yet thankfully there was meat to this speech, and Mr. Obama delivered the beef with words that actually mattered.
“Ghadafi…murdered opponents at home and abroad and terrorized people around the world, including Americans.”
“We took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Khadafi’s aggression.”
“We froze his assets,” “brought in sanctions,” and had “an arms embargo.”
Better than nothing, but far from sufficient.
“Ghadafi chose to escalate his attacks. Innocent people were targeted for killing.”
Again, correct. Mr. Obama then listed Ghadafi’s bad deeds with precision and clarity.
“I ordered warships into the Meditarranean.”
They are actually kinetic conflict ships, but it is still better than the Love Boat.
“At my direction, America led an effort with our allies to pass a historic resolution authorizing a no fly zone…authorizing all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.”
Everything with him is historic, except when there are plenty of precedents.
“The international community offered Khadafi one final chance. Ghadafi continued his advance.”
“The United States and the world faced a choice. Ghadafi declared he would show no mercy to his own people, compared them to rats, would go door to door killing people.”
“If we waited one more day, Bengazi, a city size of Charlotte would suffer a massacre”…that would have “reverberated around the region and stained the conscience of the world. I refused to let that happen.”
These were very powerful words, and delivered forcefully.
“After consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action.”
He has been criticized for not consulting Congress. He claims he consulted the leadership. The leadership must corroborate or refute this. If they corroborate his claim, good enough. If not, Mr. Obama has lied. He gets the benefit of the doubt unless proven otherwise.
“Tonight, we have stopped Khadafi’s deadly advance.”
This is very debatable, and at the heart of the problem. Is slowing his advance and even forcing a retreat good enough? Mr. Obama says yes. The answer is no.
The man who for some reason pronounces Pakistan as “Pahkistahn” (picture his nose high in the air) for some reason went hillbilly and pronounced Qatar as “Cutter.” This only matters because those who bash a pair of conservative women may wish to apply the same standards of linguistics before arbitrarily declaring Mr. Obama to be as erudite as his media toadies claim him to be.
Mr. Obama then went back to praising himself at the expense of Bill and Hillary Clinton, which was odd but accurate.
“In Bosnia, it took the international community more than a year to intervene. It took us 31 days.”
“NATO has taken command of enforcement of the embargo and the no fly zone. NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians.”
“I am fully confident our allies will keep pressure on Ghadafi.”
Based on what metric? How does he know this? He never said what separates the historically French-acting French from acting French.
“The United States will play a supporting role.”
“The risk and costs of this operation will be reduced significantly.”
The short-term risks are lower but the long-term is a roll of the dice under this approach.
“The USA has done what we said we would do.”
“This is not to say that our work is complete.”
Mr. Obama then got to the very best and very worst aspects of his speech. He absolutely shined when explaining to the left why staying out of Libya was not an option. Getting involved was absolutely the right thing to do. Mr. Obama offered an argument that was clear and noble.
He did ask about “What kind of political effort is needed to pressure Khadafi?”
He pointed out that “our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives.”
Yet despite the fact that acting carries risks and can lead to deaths, Mr. Obama was totally right when he said, “That cannot be an argument for never acting.” He alluded to “violence on a horrific scale.”
“To brush aside America’s role as a leader…that would be a betrayal of who we are.”
“I refuse to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”
“America has a strategic interest.”
“Refugees would be a strain on fragile situations in Egypt and Tunisia.”
“I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have characterized a far greater price in America.”
This was all excellent, and worthy of praise. Yet condemnation had to come when he attempted to triangulate this war and enrage those who want any and all means necessary to be used to forcefully…as in using force…remove Ghadafi from power.
“We would be better off with Ghadafi out of power. I have embraced that goal. I will pursue it through non-military means.”
This is nonsense.
“Broadening the task beyond this…regime change would be a mistake.”
This is where Neocons had to decide whether to take baseball bats to their television sets. An excuse to buy a big screen and replace the pile of electronic rubble in the living room was an even money bet.
“To overthrow Khadafi by force…our coalition would splinter, we’d need US troops on the ground. Our shares and costs of responsibility would be greater.”
“We went down that road in Iraq. Regime change there took eight years, thousands of lives, and a trillion dollars.”
In converting to Obama dollars, that would be about 10% of his domestic agenda.
This is where Neocons need to get out bigger bullhorns than the one George W. Bush wielded after 9/11 when speaking to those New York firefighters.
Invading Iraq was the right thing to do. Force was the only option. Saddam is dead. The world is better off. Diplomacy was a total failure with a madman bent on wanton destruction. The Iraq war was legal, moral, justified, and absolutely worth the cost.
Mr. Obama’s desperation to be the anti-Bush resulted in timidity.
“We will support the aspirations of Libyan people…we will assist the opposition…”
This is meaningless blather.
“It may not happen overnight.”
It could if Mr. Obama would shove a predator drone up Ghadafi’s rumpus and be done with it.
“History is not on Ghadafi’s side.”
Really? How does he know this?
“The burden of action should not be America’s alone.”
It has to be. The rest of the world are a bunch of gutless screwups that have allowed genocide from the Holocaust to Rwanda to Bosnia and other instances. If America does not lead, nothing will get done. This was understood during World War II while a certain “ally” liberals have so much faith in today was busy waving white flags and preparing to speak German.
“Progress will be uneven.”
Translation, don’t hurt Mr. Obama in the polls. When Donald Rumsfeld warned Iraq would be a “long, hard slog,” liberal revisionists claimed he said it would be easy. Yet “uneven progress” is code for giving Mr. Obama a free pass no matter how badly things may go. Like “jobs saved or created,” setbacks must not be allowed to be categorized as progress just because Mr. Obama says so.
“The US will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change.”
Well we should.
Mr. Obama needs to go back and learn American history. Truman did not drop nuclear bombs on Japan because he wanted to kill hundreds of thousands of people. He did it to save millions of people.
Mr. Obama is trying to do war on the cheap. He has not told us what he will do if Ghadafi stays in power. Just ask George Herbert Walker Bush what happens when victory does not involve regime change.
If Mr. Ghadafi is cornered but alive, he may engage in scorched Earth tactics. Picture $200 a barrel oil when he sets the fields on fire. Picture thousands of innocent civilians being shot to death.
The only solution is to kill or capture Ghadafi. The only successful outcome is regime change.
Mr. Obama was admirable in his clarity but honestly stating that he is against this approach. He did not hide or engage in weasel words. There was no doubletalk. He was honorable in his speech. He stated his beliefs in a crystal clear manner.
He is horribly wrong. His way can cause much more death and destruction in the long run.
Nevertheless, this speech did matter. This is Mr. Obama’s war in Libya, despite his desperate attempts to walk away and avoid leaving fingerprints like he does with every policy issue on his watch.
The speech was honest. Now the equally honest conversation can begin.
Force removed the Taliban and Saddam. Force ended World War II. Force works.
America should either go Roman or go home. Mr. Obama rightly refuses to do the latter but wrongly refuses to do the former.
It is right to pray that Mr. Obama’s strategy works.
It is also right to fear it will not. It never has.