Washington, March 29 (IANS) Defending US intervention in Libya, President Barack Obama argued that a failure to act against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s “brutal repression” would have carried a far greater price.
The world had a “unique ability to stop” violence “on a horrific scale” by acting in a broad coalition with the support of Arab countries in Libya, he said addressing the nation Monday.
“It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right,” Obama said.
“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,” he said.
“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 US president said he ordered US warships into the Mediterranean because of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s “brutal repression” of his people and “a looming humanitarian crisis.”
“America has an important strategic interest in preventing Gadhafi from overrunning those who oppose him,” said Obama.
He also stressed that transition to a “legitimate government” in Libya is “a task for the international community, and more importantly, a task for the Libyan people themselves.”
Obama said the transfer of military operations from US to NATO command would take place Wednesday.
Cautioning against broadening the military mission, Obama said: “If we tried to overthrow Gadhafi by force, our coalition would splinter.” He added, however: “History is not on Gadhafi’s side.”
Countering critics who question why he committed military forces to enforce a United Nations backed no-fly-zone and ceasefire but not to support his own administration’s policy goal of regime change in Libya, he said:
“Of course, there is no question that Libya – and the world – will be better off with Gaddafi out of power.
“I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
He went even further, saying that the Iraq war was an example where regime change was a primary goal of the military campaign and one that was not settled quickly, easily, or without significant sacrifice.