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Rapid reaction: Obama's Libya speech


Here are some of my quick thoughts regarding Obama's Libya speech:

--Despite announcing that NATO will not take over the Libyan intervention until Wednesday, Obama used the past tense in explaining our efforts their. He said we "have led" operations in Libya. When talking about other current military operations, he used the present tense. It's a rhetorical device.

--He reiterated tonight why we are in Libya: When our “interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act.” It seems he was trying to answer the critics -- and even his own Secretary of Defense -- who say Libyan intervention isn't in our national interest. I don't think it worked. Telling us over and over again that humanitarian intervention is in our national interest doesn't mean it's in our national interest. You can't just make 2+2=5, or change national interest to be whatever you want it to be.

--"I can report, we have stopped Gadhafi's deadly attack," he said at one point. Was this his "mission accomplished" moment?

--I thought his reference to Quatar and the UAE choosing "to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people" was interesting. Have they really stated this as their goal? Have they admitted this is their responsibility? Maybe, but I haven't seen it.

--Obama also tried to answer his critics who put forth what he calls a "false choice:" either intervene every time and everywhere there is a humanitarian crisis, or don't intervene at all. “We must always measure our interests against the need for action," he said. "But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right.” It was a smart move, but I think it failed, mainly because he didn't explain why this humanitarian crises then deserves intervention. Is it just at the whim and fancy of the president? What are the parameters? We still don't know.

--I found it odd that he used as part of his defense the idea that we needed to legitimize the UN. He explained that if we didn't step in the UN resolution would carry no weight. Not only does that resemble part of of W. Bush's defense in Iraq, but since when is it the United States' job to legitimize the UN? Or put another way, if the international community was so bent on stepping in as he would have us believe, why did we have to get involved? Couldn't the other countries legitimize the UN?

--If you needed any more evidence that Samantha Power (Cass Sunstein's wife) is in Obama's ear, then look no further than the president's reference to delayed intervention in Bosnia. It's chapter nine in her book.

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