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A Twitter Analysis

March 28, 2011

Via Twitter, National Journal’s editor-in-chief, Ron Fournier, covered the spine of Monday night’s address by President Obama. Here are his insights, in the social media’s trademark abbreviated form:
 

Obama promises to explain "what we have done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us."
 
Does he deliver?
 
On the first promise, yes: Obama spends much of speech describing action taken in detail
 
In just one month, U.S. has mobilized a coalition, stopped an advancing army and prevented "a massacre," Obama says
 
Patting himself on the back a bit, the president noted that in the 1990s, it took "more than a year to intervene" in Bosnia
 
He also noted that he has promised to limit U.S. military operations, and that on Libya he promised no ground troops.
 
"Tonight," the president said, "we are fulfilling that pledge."
 
On the speech's second promise, Obama also outlined "what we plan to do ..."
 
He vowed to consult with allies and "continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people."
 
That is a wide-open and ambitious goal, maybe a scary one to some.
 
The most interesting part of the speech might be that third thing he promised to explain: "Why this matters to us."
 
Obama seems to cast the action as mainly a humanitarian one.
 
He draws a contrast to military action aimed at striking terrorists who directly threaten the U.S.
 
"That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq," he said,
 
"and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country."
 
And then we heard what may be an emerging Obama doctrine:
 
"There will be times, though," Obama says, "when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are."
 
Our interests and values? He put meat on those bones: "Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity
 
... and common security."
 
Such as, responding to natural disasters, preventing genocide, ensuring regional security and maintaining the flow of commerce, he said.
 
"These may not be American problems alone," Obama said," but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving."
 
What have we done? What do we plan to do? Why does this matter?
 
Agree or not with his answers, it would be hard to deny that Obama faced the questions pretty directly.
 
Good thing, too, because the answers in this troubled world aren't getting any easier.

 

Colleague Rebecca Kaplan points out two big questions not answered:

 

How much will it cost? Exactly how involved with US forces be?

Obama only said "the risk and cost of operations ... will be reduced significantly"

Okay, from what to what? How much will it cost? How many lives might be lost?

 
Follow Ron Fournier on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ron_fournier. He will be answering readers’ questions via Twitter at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
 

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