President Obama warned on Friday that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi must cease violence against Libya's civilians or face a U.N.-led military action that would decapitate his regime.
"These terms are not negotiable," Obama said in an East Room address. "These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences. And the resolution will be enforced through military action."
But Obama also made clear that he would not deploy U.S. ground forces into Libya. Instead, Obama said that the U.S. would be "enabling" Arab and European forces seeking to end the upheaval in Libya. The president stressed the international nature of the alliance determined to stop Qaddafi's military assault, citing the United Nations, the European Union, and the Arab League.
"We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya," Obama said. "In the coming weeks, we will continue to help the Libyan people with humanitarian and economic assistance so that they can fulfill their aspirations peacefully."
In his short speech, Obama seemed to be trying to send two discrete messages—one to QQaddafi and one to the American public.
To Qaddafi, Obama spelled out that certain terms must be met to avoid military action: a cease-fire must be implemented immediately; pro-Qaddafi troops must pull out of eastern Libya; and his regime must establish water, electricity, and gas supplies to rebel-held areas and allow humanitarian aid to make its way to civilians.
But a more distinct message was meant for the ears of war-weary Americans. Obama stressed that any military action would come from an international coalition. He also stressed that the fact that the U.S. is already fighting two wars was a paramount in his mind as he deliberated over backing potential military action in Libya.
“Let me close by saying that there is no decision I face as your commander in chief that I consider as carefully as the decision to ask our men and women to use military force, particularly at a time when our military is fighting in Afghanistan and winding down our activities in Iraq,” Obama said. “I've taken this decision with the confidence that action is necessary and that we will not be acting alone. Our goal is focused. Our cause is just.”