OBAMA: "Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and no-fly zone. ... 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 Gadhafi's remaining forces. In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role."
THE FACTS: As by far the pre-eminent player in NATO, and a nation historically reluctant to put its forces under operational foreign command, the United States will not be taking a back seat in the campaign even as its profile diminishes for public consumption.
NATO partners are bringing more into the fight. But the same "unique capabilities" that made the U.S. the inevitable leader out of the gate will continue to be in demand.
OBAMA: "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."
THE FACTS: Mass violence against civilians has also been escalating elsewhere, without any U.S. military intervention anticipated.
More than 1 million people have fled the Ivory Coast, where the U.N. says forces loyal to the incumbent leader, Laurent Gbagbo, have used heavy weapons against the population and more than 460 killings have been confirmed of supporters of the internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara.
The Obama administration says Gbagbo and Gadhafi have both lost their legitimacy to rule. But only one is under attack from the U.S.
So if I have this straight, (1) a bloodbath was looming in Benghazi, (2) America’s role as leader of freedom-loving peoples gives it a special duty to intervene abroad to prevent bloodbaths and protect human rights, but (3) if we can’t do it as part of an international effort, too bad, so sad. Does that make sense? Especially given that the “leadership” evinced in coalition-building here wasn’t as robust as it was in Afghanistan and Iraq?Obama argued that preventing a human rights catastrophe is not only in our national interest, but is also, in essence, a requirement of America, given her unique standing in the world. Textbook American exceptionalism. But he simultaneously telegraphed the clear impression that this intervention would not have occurred without a UN permission slip, and stressed repeatedly (and somewhat disingenuously, as evidenced in the fact check above) that our leading role in the operation has now come to an end. I'm having trouble squaring those points.
...Nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
Even as President Obama on Monday described a narrower role for the United States in a NATO-led operation in Libya, the American military has been carrying out an expansive and increasingly potent air campaign to compel the Libyan Army to turn against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
In his speech on Monday night, Mr. Obama, as he has in the past, portrayed the mission as a limited one, and described the United States’ role as “supporting.” But interviews in recent days offer a fuller picture of American involvement, and show that it is far deeper than discussed in public and more instrumental to the fight than was previously known.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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