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White House / WHITE HOUSE

Obama Declares Libyan Action in National Interest

The president says NATO control significantly reduces U.S. risk.

photo of Matthew Cooper
March 28, 2011

Making the case that American military force staved off a humanitarian disaster in Libya, President Obama took to the airwaves on Monday night and declared that “it was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen.”

Obama skipped the Oval Office, the venue that most presidents use to announce military action, and instead made his statement at the National Defense University at Ft. McNair in Washington, D.C. The venue allowed Obama to thank the military and make the case for why the United States brought its firepower to bear on Libya nine days ago. The military effort in Libya is being led by NATO with support from the Arab League and a mandate from the United Nations.

Obama said that with the handoff of control to NATO the risk to U.S. forces “will be reduced significantly.”

 

The administration hoped that the president’s speech—combined with three television interviews planned for Tuesday—will help stanch criticism that the president does not have clear goals or a clear exit strategy from Libya.

“We have accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations,” Obama said. “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.”

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