President Barack Obama made the right, albeit belated, decision to join with allies and try to stop Moammar Gadhafi from slaughtering thousands of Libyans. But he has been far too slow to explain that decision, or his long-term strategy, to Congress and the American people.
On the night of March 28, the president spoke to the nation and made a strong case for why America needed to intervene in this fight — and why that did not always mean it should intervene in others.
Obama said that the United States had a moral responsibility to stop “violence on a horrific scale,” as well as a unique international mandate and a broad coalition to act with. He said that failure to intervene could also have threatened the peaceful transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, as thousands of Libyan refugees poured across their borders, while other dictators would conclude that “violence is the best strategy to cling to power.”
To his credit, Obama did not sugarcoat the difficulties ahead. While he suggested that his goal, ultimately, is to see Gadhafi gone, he also said that the air war was unlikely to accomplish that by itself.
Most important, he vowed that there would be no American ground troops in this fight.
Instead, he said the United States and its allies would work to increase the diplomatic and military pressure on Gadhafi and his cronies.
The president made the right choice to act, but this is a war of choice, not necessity. Presidents should not commit the military to battle without consulting Congress and explaining their reasons to the American people.
The New York Times (March 28)