Less than one hour ago, President Obama updated the American people of the current situation in Libya. One key piece of information to take away from his message is that our response to the crisis in Libya comes as part of an international effort to prevent the prospect of “violence on horrific proportions” and ensure that Moammar Gadhafi is held accountable for his brutal actions.
Since the start of this conflict, as was the similar case for the recent Egyptian uprising, Obama has repeatedly emphasized that it is the responsibility of the Libyan people to take charge of their government. Unlike Egypt, however, the Libyans are being brutally and violently suppressed in their quest for democracy.
By joining an international coalition, alongside nations like the UK, France, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. is simply helping to enforce the United Nation’s Security Council’s resolution to free the Libyan people.
As Obama said in his speech tonight, “American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.” This is the kind of leadership we have shown in Libya.
However, we must not equate this situation with our response in Iraq. Instead, Obama is committed to having the U.S. play a limited, but supporting, role in Libya. We are fulfilling our responsibility to our allies, acting WITH the international community, and taking advantage of the fact that we can prevent mass genocide and help a nation’s oppressed people WIHTOUT deploying ground troops.
Soon, with NATO taking command of the operation, the U.S. would have fulfilled our pledge to assist the Libyan people while still serving America’s best interest. As the president emphasized:
“America has an important strategic interest in preventing Gadhafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya's borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful — yet fragile — transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. [Also] The writ of the UN Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling its future credibility to uphold global peace and security.”
Inaction would have greater costs for the U.S. and the world community by putting a heavy, and most likely deadly, toll on the men, women, and children of Libya.