Obama’s stance is striking: not only hasn’t he addressed the question of congressional authorization, but acting without it appears to be at odds with what he stood for when he ran for president. “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” Obama told the Boston Globe in 2007. Obama has not argued that Gadhafi is “an actual or imminent threat” to the United States, only to the Libyans who oppose him.
For his part, Obama has sought to take a backseat in the Libyan intervention, stressing the U.S. holds a support role as part of an international coalition led by NATO. "We cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force -- no matter how well-intended it may be," Obama said Thursday in a speech on Middle East policy. "But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people's call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed."
Obama said that embattled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's continued assault on his own people left the U.S. and its international partners with no other choice. Right now, France, Britain, Canada and Italy are the only announced partners of the international coalition. A Pentagon spokesman said other countries involved wanted to announce their involvement themselves in their own time. "Today, we are part of a broad coalition," Obama said. "We are answering the calls of a threatened people and we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world."
President Barack Obama on Monday rejected criticism of his decision to commit U.S. forces to the U.N.-authorized military mission in Libya, telling the American people there were strategic and moral reasons to act. In a nationally televised speech at the National Defense University, Obama said his administration kept its pledge that the mission would be limited in size and scope, announcing that the NATO alliance would assume full command on Wednesday. The United States now will play "a supporting role -- including intelligence, logistical support, search-and-rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications," Obama said, noting that both the risk and cost of the operation to America "will be reduced significantly."
To his credit, Mr. Obama did not sugarcoat the difficulties ahead. While he suggested that his goal, ultimately, is to see Colonel Qaddafi gone, he also said that the air war was unlikely to accomplish that by itself. Most important, he vowed that there would be no American ground troops in this fight. “If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force,” he said, “our coalition would splinter.” He said “regime change” in Iraq took eight years and cost thousands of American and Iraqi lives. “That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.” Instead, he said the United States and its allies would work to increase the diplomatic and military pressure on Colonel Qaddafi and his cronies. A meeting on Tuesday with allies and members of the Libyan opposition is supposed to develop that strategy along with ways to help the rebels build alternate, and we hope humane and competent, governing structures. That needs to start quickly.
On March 3, President Obama stated that "Qaddafi must go" as Libyan military actions began to encompass the Libyan Air Force striking against opposition forces. This was the first time that President Obama publically called for the removal of Muammar Qaddafi from power.
Mr. Obama said that the United States had a moral responsibility to stop “violence on a horrific scale,” as well as a unique international mandate and a broad coalition to act with. He said that failure to intervene could also have threatened the peaceful transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, as thousands of Libyan refugees poured across their borders, while other dictators would conclude that “violence is the best strategy to cling to power.” Mr. Obama could report encouraging early progress on the military and diplomatic fronts. Washington and its allies have crippled or destroyed Colonel Qaddafi’s anti-aircraft defenses, peeled his troops back from the city of Benghazi — saving potentially thousands of lives — and allowed rebel forces to retake the offensive.
President Obama was initially hesitant to inject the US into the Libyan uprising. In keeping with his campaign discussions on foreign policy, he spoke out against the violence in Libya but did not immediately call for the removal of the Libyan leader or dictate Libyan policies. However, as fighting increased in Libya the Obama administration sought and recieved a resolution from the UN security council allowing for a no-fly zone. The administration also placed sanctions on the nation and began to call for the removal of Ghaddafi. Over the next few weeks, the administration enforced the no-fly zone, but also bombed targets on the ground in support of rebel forces and bombed and the house of Ghaddafi. During this same time, the President stated that Ghaddafi was not the target of the UN resolution nor the target of the no-fly zone. This bombing caused the Arab League to waiver in its support for the no-fly zone.
At the same time, Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one. I said at the beginning of this process, we cannot and should not intervene every time there is an injustice in the world. Yet it’s also true that there are times where the world could have and should have summoned the will to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale. And we are forever haunted by the atrocities that we did not prevent, and the lives that we did not save. But this time was different. This time, we, through the United Nations, found the courage and the collective will to act.
The surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple: Moammar Qadhafi and his regime need to recognize that their rule has come to an end. Qadhafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all. Meanwhile, the United States has recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya. At this pivotal and historic time, the TNC should continue to demonstrate the leadership that is necessary to steer the country through a transition by respecting the rights of the people of Libya, avoiding civilian casualties, protecting the institutions of the Libyan state, and pursuing a transition to democracy that is just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya. A season of conflict must lead to one of peace.