Obama Addresses the Nation on Libya

Tonight, President Obama will speak to the nation regarding the Libya intervention:

President Barack Obama plans to address the nation at 7:30 p.m. ET Monday following calls from across the political spectrum for the U.S. leader to clarify America’s role in the U.N.-authorized military mission in Libya.

Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the president’s policy in the war-torn North African nation. Among other things, they have questioned the purpose of the mission, as well as its cost, endgame, and consequences for the broader Arab world.

Obama will speak at the National Defense University in Washington “to update the American people on the situation in Libya, including the actions we’ve taken with allies and partners to protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Gadhafi, the transition to NATO command and control, and our policy going forward,” the White House announced Sunday.

The president has said that U.S. policy is the ouster of Gadhafi. However, the mandate of the military coalition is only to enforce a no-fly zone and arms embargo in Libya while taking other necessary steps to protect civilians.

The president needs to outline the way forward in Libya.  Most people just want to know what’s happening next and how long the commitment will be.  At the outset, we were told America would only be involved for a few days.  Looks like that was a lie.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat asks four basic questions in a recent editorial. What are our military objectives? Who exactly are the rebels? Can we really hand off this mission? Is Libya distracting us from more pressing American interests?

To the first question, I would say that we have no idea what the objectives are.  Hopefully the President clarifies this.  To the second question, about the rebels, there is no good answer.  The rebels are a bunch of different Libyan tribes put together with no clear leader. Some are Islamists and will probably sponsor terrorism against American if they get control of the country.

Can we hand off this mission? No, because as long as NATO is running the show, America will remain the primary actor.  We provide the planes and the weapons, regardless of what international coalition is put in charge.

And the fourth and final question is perhaps the most important.  Is Libya distracting us from more pressing American interests? I’d say yes.  Syria is the latest country to erupt. Unlike Libya, Syria is a serious and critical national security threat.  While appearing on one of the Sunday talk shows, Secretary Gates said that Libya “was not a vital national interest to the United States.” If that’s the case, why are we there? Did we really allow the French to drag us into another war?  France gets about a third of its oil from Libya. We get almost none of ours from there, yet we did all the bombing.  So is this about oil, or is it about a humanitarian mission?

I’ll be previewing the President’s speech on tonight’s KaibCast, which airs live at 6 PM eastern.

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