Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Obama Addresses the Nation on Libya

In 2007, then candidate Barack Obama declared in no uncertain terms that the U.S. President must go to Congress and the people of our nation to make the case for military action - before that action is taken. My, what a difference four years make.


For a candidate so intent on showing his self-confidence as the potential Commander-in-Chief with his strong criticism against the former Bush administration, he is rapidly setting new standards. Let it be noted that George W. Bush, as president, went to both Congress and the U.N. before going into Iraq and spoke directly to the American people (and the world) in an Oval Office address.

The hypocrisy is easily noted.

Typically, when a president declares war, polling show that the president's popularity rises. This is due to the rally around our country and our military in the initial days of a conflict. It's who we are as Americans. In this case, however, President Obama's polling numbers have not fared well. The latest Pew Research poll released Monday afternoon shows:

After several days of airstrikes on Libya by the United States and its allies, the public has mixed reactions to the military operation. Nearly half of Americans (47%) say the United States made the right decision in conducting air strikes in Libya while 36% say it was the wrong decision. Fully one-in-six (17%) express no opinion.

On balance, however, the public does not think that the U.S. and its allies have a clear goal in taking military action in Libya. Just 39% say the U.S. and its allies have a clear goal, while 50% say they do not.

Obama, frankly speaking, brought this lack of support on himself. He first was silent, then he dithered until he found his voice, then we were offering humanitarian support for people being massacred in the streets by a madman dictator, and now the position last stated is that Qaddafi must go. Obama went into the coalition with NATO and the African Union and approved the launching of almost two hundred Tomahawk missiles without so much as a phone call to the leaders of Congress. There was a vote taken in the U.N. and the Obama Doctrine seems to be that the U.S. is only to be under international control, not the leader of the free world.

Is that change we can believe in?

Addressing an audience of military experts at the National Defense University, President Obama was tasked with laying out his reasoning for his actions and the plan he has for the mission and then the endgame. Did he succeed? I don't think so. There were zings at George W. Bush with references about Iraq - as what not to do - and there was the standard flowery Obama campaign speak. He was determined to make us think he is deliberate and confident that his decisions are strong. And, regime change is not our objective.


This is how the man sums it all up:

Moreover, we have accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations. I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation, and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge.

Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and No Fly Zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the No Fly Zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Gaddafi’s remaining forces. In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role – including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. Because of this transition to a broader, NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation – to our military, and to American taxpayers – will be reduced significantly.

Here's a bit of irony from Obama as he was anti-war in Iraq but that was then and this is now:

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.

Mass graves and images of slaughter ring a bell? Like Saddam and the Iraqis?

The task that I assigned our forces – to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a No Fly Zone – carries with it a UN mandate and international support. It is also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Gaddafi 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.

To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.

Obama really wants you to know he is not George W. Bush.

We now know very little more than what we knew before the speech. It was delivered in pre-prime time and no network had to interrupt night programming. Turns out no one really exerted much effort here. The time would have been wasted on the size of a prime time audience.

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