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President Obama Speech on the United States Role in Libya

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Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya


National Defense University

Washington, D.C.


7:31 P.M. EDT


THE PRESIDENT: Tonight, I'd like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya –- what we've done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.


I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength. Because of them and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved.


Meanwhile, as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally Japan, leaving Iraq to its people, stopping the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and going after al Qaeda all across the globe. As Commander-in-Chief, I'm grateful to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and to their families. And I know all Americans share in that sentiment.


For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That's what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.


Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt -– two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant -– Muammar Qaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world –- including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.


Last month, Qaddafi's grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, "For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over."


Faced with this opposition, Qaddafi began attacking his people. As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our embassy and all Americans who sought our assistance. Then we took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Qaddafi's aggression. We froze more than $33 billion of Qaddafi's regime's assets. Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo, and enabled Qaddafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. I made it clear that Qaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.


In the face of the world's condemnation, Qaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misurata was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air.


Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition and the Arab League appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. And so at my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass a historic resolution that authorized a no-fly zone to stop the regime's attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.


Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.


At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show "no mercy" to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted -- if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.


It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.


We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi's troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi's air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi's deadly advance.


In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies -– nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey –- all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people.

To summarize, then: In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days.


Moreover, we've accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations. 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.


Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Qaddafi's remaining forces.

In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role -- including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. Because of this transition to a broader, NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation -- to our military and to American taxpayers -- will be reduced significantly.


So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: The United States of America has done what we said we would do.


That's not to say that our work is complete. In addition to our NATO responsibilities, we will work with the international community to provide assistance to the people of Libya, who need food for the hungry and medical care for the wounded. We will safeguard the more than $33 billion that was frozen from the Qaddafi regime so that it's available to rebuild Libya. After all, the money doesn't belong to Qaddafi or to us -- it belongs to the Libyan people. And we'll make sure they receive it.


Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will go to London, where she will meet with the Libyan opposition and consult with more than 30 nations. These discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Qaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve -- because while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people.


Now, despite the success of our efforts over the past week, I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Qaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous. Moreover, even after Qaddafi does leave power, 40 years of tyranny has left Libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community and –- more importantly –- a task for the Libyan people themselves.


In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all -– even in limited ways –- in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing needs here at home.


It's true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right. In this particular country -– Libya -- at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi's forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.


To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and -– more profoundly -– our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.


Moreover, America has an important strategic interest in preventing Qaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya's borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. The writ of the United Nations Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling that institution's future credibility to uphold global peace and security. So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.


Now, just as there are those who have argued against intervention in Libya, there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission beyond the task of protecting the Libyan people, and do whatever it takes to bring down Qaddafi and usher in a new government.


Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.


The task that I assigned our forces -– to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone -– carries with it a U.N. mandate and international support. It's also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.


To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq's future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.

As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do -- and will do -- is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Qaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Qaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Qaddafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on Qaddafi's side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.


Let me close by addressing what this action says about the use of America's military power, and America's broader leadership in the world, under my presidency.


As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe. And no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform. I've made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests. That's why we're going after al Qaeda wherever they seek a foothold. That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country.


There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security -– responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America's problems alone, but they are important to us. They're problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world's most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.


In such cases, we should not be afraid to act -– but the burden of action should not be America's alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.


That's the kind of leadership we've shown in Libya. Of course, even when we act as part of a coalition, the risks of any military action will be high. Those risks were realized when one of our planes malfunctioned over Libya. Yet when one of our airmen parachuted to the ground, in a country whose leader has so often demonized the United States –- in a region that has such a difficult history with our country –- this American did not find enemies. Instead, he was met by people who embraced him. One young Libyan who came to his aid said, "We are your friends. We are so grateful to those men who are protecting the skies."


This voice is just one of many in a region where a new generation is refusing to be denied their rights and opportunities any longer.


Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time. Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently to different countries. There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. And then there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed. The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns will have to be addressed.


The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference.


I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed at one's own people; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people.


Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith -- those ideals -- that are the true measure of American leadership.


My fellow Americans, I know that at a time of upheaval overseas -- when the news is filled with conflict and change -- it can be tempting to turn away from the world. And as I've said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength here at home. That must always be our North Star -- the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring for our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.


But let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer, our own future is brighter, if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity.

Tonight, let us give thanks for the Americans who are serving through these trying times, and the coalition that is carrying our effort forward. And let us look to the future with confidence and hope not only for our own country, but for all those yearning for freedom around the world.


Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you.


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Facing the first American military campaign initiated under their watch, tea party-backed Republican freshmen in Congress have been all over the map in their opinions of U.S. participation in the air war in Libya.


Their embrace of a political philosophy that advocates fiscal responsibility and smaller government has driven some members to oppose President Obama’s decision to intervene in what is essentially a civil war in Libya, citing costs and constitutional authority.


But the tea party is hardly the unifying force on foreign policy that it is on the domestic front. And there are members affiliated with the movement who say they support the president’s move, while others have blasted him for not acting faster.

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The leader of the main opposition Libyan National Movement says President Barack Obama's speech late Monday demonstrates America's commitment to not abandon ordinary Libyans in their time of need.


Mufta Lamloom says America's intervention in the Libyan crisis has prevented forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi from massacring ordinary unarmed Libyans who are opposed to what he describes as Gadhafi's tyrannical rule.


"What I got from the speech is that he was very cautious trying to address the American people about what he did in Libya and that it was a decision that has to be taken without referring to anybody because there was a massacre about to happen in Benghazi," said Lamloom.


"It means a lot to Libyans. It means that the United States has not abandoned them in their hour of need because, despite all the obligations of the United States, despite all the hardships the whole world is going through, despite their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has found a way to intervene in the last minute to stop the massacre in Libya," he added.


In a nationally-televised address Monday from Washington, Obama accused Gadhafi of "brutal repression" and creating a "looming humanitarian crisis," which he said forced the international community to act.


Lamloom hailed Obama's speech saying Libyans are encouraged and pleased with America's intervention.


"[Libyans] will take from the speech that United States has obligations towards the people of the world, especially those who are seeking to liberate themselves from dictatorship and want freedom. This has been shown in a very precise and clear language. He said, whoever is looking for their freedom, they will find a friend in the United States," Lamloom said.


Obama's speech came 10 days after the Western air campaign against forces loyal to Gadhafi began. He pointed out that the campaign was authorized by what he called a historic vote in the U.N. Security Council and that NATO is to assume enforcement of the no-fly zone and the protection of the Libyan people.


Lamloom also says his expectations about Obama's speech were met.


"What Libyans see in it [the speech] is that what the coalition or NATO has done is that they have opened the way for Libyans to talk to the chief of the dictatorship. At one point, the Libyans were desperate because Gadhafi was actually massacring the people…he uses the pretext of fighting fundamentalists or al Qaeda," Lamloom said.


"But, nobody in Libya will believe that because we don't have those elements in Libya. What Gadhafi was doing was just killing his people systematically. He was encouraging his troops to rape women; that is something that should not be accepted in the Arab World," he added.


Obama repeated his pledge that the U.S. role would be limited and no U.S. ground forces would be used. The speech was designed to address the concerns of those in Congress and elsewhere who have criticized Obama for failing to clarify U.S. goals before involving U.S. forces in the air assault in support of Libyan rebels.


His speech comes on the eve of a 35-nation conference in London to discuss the situation in Libya and ways to bring about regime change there.

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With conflict continuing to unfold in Libya, and American involvement also continuing, the question on the minds of many is – just how limited will this limited intervention be?


According to President Obama, in a speech on March 22, it would be very short.


“I said at the outset that this was going to be a matter of days and not weeks,” the President said while visiting El Salvador.


But five days later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, appeared on ABC’s this week where, host Jake Tapper asked,"Do you think we'll be gone [from the Libya operation] by the end of the year – will the mission be over by the end of the year?"


"I don't think anybody knows the answer," Sec. Gates responded.


When NATO took over the majority of command of the mission, they did so with the aim at protecting the civilian population, according to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General. The mission has been approved for 90 days with an option to extend.


Some people like to look into the name of the mission, Operation Odyssey Dawn, though those in charge of naming it say it was totally random.


“There’s a group of planning officers led by a Lieutenant Colonel that in the early days of planning and looked at a list and decided to call it Odyssey basically because they liked the word odyssey,” said Eric Elliot, with US Africa Command.


Still, some continue to find the title concerning.


“It’s sort of an odd combination,” said Hayes Roth, Chief Marketing Officer for Landor Worldwide. “Odyssey implies that we’re on a long journey and dawn means we’re at the beginning of that long journey so in English, that’s a little worrisome.”


And it’s not just the dictionary definition to be concerned about. Think about Homer’s epic, poem The Odyssey.In some ways, it’s a story about people wandering around the Mediterranean for ten years unable to find their way.


But from that book, to the history books, the meaning of a “limited” war has been transformed time and time again.


When President Bush addressed the nation about the impending war in Iraq, he said, “Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force.”


Decisive force came and went but the troops stayed on.


When asked by a reporter how long people should expect the war to last he said, “It will go on until the Regime is gone.”


Sadaam Hussein also went, but still the troops stayed.


And when President Clinton spoke to the nation about the need for U.S. forces to get involved in Kosovo in 1999, he said:


“My fellow Americans, today our Armed Forces joined our NATO allies in airstrikes. against Serbian forces responsible for the brutality in Kosovo. We have acted with resolve for several reasons. We act to protect thousands of innocent people in Kosovo from a mounting military offensive. We act to prevent a wider war.”


Just how wide that war got, continues to be debated.


There’s also US involvement in Somalia, which eventually led to the death of 19 Americans. Two black hawk helicopters were also shot down.And the civil war there continues to this day.


So what should the American people expect?


Well if history is any indication, then what is limited is also relative.

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal, 3/30/2011


Q Thanks, Jay. On Libya, yesterday the President said the question the administration wants to answer is whether the Qaddafi forces are sufficiently degraded so that opposition groups don't need to be armed. Judging from what's going on, on the ground today, those forces are pushing back the rebel forces. So I wonder what the White House assessment is right now, and what are the issues under consideration for not assisting the rebels with arms?


MR. CARNEY: I'm not sure I --


Q Well, if you're making a determination whether to supply them with arms or not, what are the arguments for not supplying them with arms?


MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the President said very clearly in one of his interviews yesterday evening that he's not taking anything off the table -- he's not ruling something in or ruling something out in terms of lethal assistance to the opposition.


With regard to the start of your question, we are very confident that the coalition that we are part of, that is responsible for both enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting Libyan civilians, will be capable of succeeding in its mission and pushing back Colonel Qaddafi's forces.


The broader question of assistance to the opposition is one that we're looking at very closely. We're coordinating with the opposition and exploring ways that we can assist them with non-lethal assistance, and we'll look at other possibilities of assistance as we move forward.


Working with our coalition partners in the Contact Group which was stood up in London yesterday with the Secretary of State, broad number of partners involved in that effort looking at the political future of Libya and working with the opposition. And we're examining all these issues as we work towards a Libya that has a government that answers to its people, that is chosen by its people, and is democratic and respects the rights of its citizens.


Q Given what is going on, on the ground, do you concede that he's to some degree reasserting his authority right now militarily?


MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there's a lot of ink that's been spilled on military operations in Libya, and the back-and-forth between Qaddafi's forces and the opposition. And all I can tell you is that we remain very confident in the capacity of the NATO coalition to push the Qaddafi forces back, to protect Libyan civilians, to fulfill its mission to enforce the no-fly zone.


And there are different developments each day, but the trend we think is clear and the pressure on Qaddafi will continue -- both on his forces through the military operation and all the ways that we've discussed, through the measures that the United States and its international partners have taken to isolate him, to put pressure on him, to pressure those around him to realize that their days are numbered, the days of this regime are numbered, and that they may want to reconsider where they stand.


Q In terms of the question of whether or not the U.S. or the coalition should arm the rebels or more closely coordinate strikes with them, have military-to-military contact, such as their military is, could you walk us through what some of the considerations are, what the debate is playing out behind closed doors?


MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, I would make clear that there is a kind of "what problem haven't you solved today" aspect to this, which is that in a remarkably short period of time -- as the President laid out in his speech and laid out in the interviews yesterday -- with American leadership, the international community acted, first to take dramatic, unprecedented measures through the United Nations and unilaterally in terms of non-lethal measures, sanctions to put pressure on the Qaddafi regime and isolate the Qaddafi regime, and then through U.N. Security Council 1973 to authorize all necessary means to protect the civilian population of Libya from Qaddafi's forces and to avert what was most likely an imminent humanitarian catastrophe.


We've had remarkable success in achieving the goals laid out. And so in terms of the assistance provided the opposition, obviously the measures we have taken has provided great assistance to the opposition. We prevented the invasion of and sacking of Benghazi and averted likely thousands of civilian deaths in the course --


Q But the President gave a much more positive assessment of what the condition was on the ground for the rebels on Monday than exists today because the situation on the ground has changed.


MR. CARNEY: And the situation -- as I said, we're not going to do a play-by-play of how does it look today, how does it look tomorrow. What I said in the beginning is --


Q -- going on behind closed doors, and in the name of having --


MR. CARNEY: Well, who said anything was going on behind closed doors?


Q In the name of the -- of candor and explaining to the American people what's going on, what we're talking about doing. You guys have been criticized for a lot of quick action that you had to take because of the immediacy of --


MR. CARNEY: After we were --


Q -- because of the immediacy --


MR. CARNEY: After we were criticized for moving too slowly -- but, yes.


Q You can -- if you'd like me to get a roomful of straw men, I can do that. But if we can have that conversation for a second, and that is, what are the -- what's the debate? What are the issues? I'm not saying that one side is right or one side is wrong. I'm just saying, can you explain to the American people what are some of the considerations you guys are weighing?


MR. CARNEY: In terms of what? Arming --


Q In terms of more closely working with the rebels, whether it's arming them, whether it's more closely coordinating military strikes with them, having direct conversations with them. What are some of the competing issues?


MR. CARNEY: We have said and we continue to say this, that obviously through this very brief window of time we have worked very quickly to try to assess who the opposition is. As the President I believe said in one the interviews, that clearly not everyone in Libya who is opposed to Qaddafi is friendly to the United States. But we have been working with those leaders of the opposition who have demonstrated -- who have been vetted and who have demonstrated a commitment, at least initially, to the kinds of actions that we believe are essential, that adhere to the principles that we discussed that broadly apply as we look at the whole region and the unrest in the whole region, which is a commitment to the universal rights of their citizens, a commitment to free and fair elections, to a democratic transition, to tolerance and respect, like I said, for human rights.


So the Libyan National Council put out a statement yesterday from London, which we found to be encouraging in terms of their approach to this. And we are dealing quite closely with that opposition leadership as we make an assessment about what measures we can take going forward.


But I remind you that we're not going to rush into anything here without carefully considering what the policy decision is, what the outcome we desire is, and how we can help most effectively. And that's the same approach we took in making decisions about kinetic military action and supporting an international coalition through the United Nations, with support from the Arab League and other nations, to launch a military action. And that's the approach we'll take going forward.


Q Yes, in the CBS interview yesterday -- picking one at random -- the President used the expression “constant bombardment” at one point. He essentially argued that if Qaddafi wants the “constant bombardment” to stop, he’ll have to step down. Isn’t that crossing the line from using military action to protect civilians and using it to push him out? MR. CARNEY: The constant bombardment is happening because of the threat of violence that Qaddafi’s forces pose to the population of Libya. And as we’ve seen has been discussed about developments in the last 24-36 hours that it’s not like they're laying down their arms. It’s not like Qaddafi has gone into -- circled the wagons and gone into retreat. He is clearly still trying to wreak havoc on his country and putting his own citizens in great danger.


And so the mission of the U.N. Security Council resolution is to protect the civilian population, and the constant bombardment will continue as long as that mission remains.


Q For a couple of days, I’ve been asking you if we’re at war in Libya, and I don't think I’ve gotten an answer yet. I’d like to try again. Is it a war? MR. CARNEY: Look, it is a -- obviously, it’s military action. Did we invade Libya? No. Are we -- do we have U.S. troops on the ground in Libya? No. You can call it -- it’s been a false argument that some media outlets have tried to engage about the nomenclature here. It is the use of military force in concert with our allies. Military force is inherently a risky proposition, puts men and women in harm’s way, and military -- but what it is not is in the context that we live in today, anything like a situation where you had I believe at one point 170,000-plus U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq; where you have 100,000 U.S. troops and 140,000 ISAF troops overall in Afghanistan in a prolonged engagement, a prolonged war. That is not what is happening in Libya.


The President made very clear how this is not at all like that. You can call it what you want, but it’s not analogous.


Q You’ve said a couple of times today and in previous sessions that the Qaddafi regime’s days are numbered. What evidence do we actually have that that is true? MR. CARNEY: He’s lost legitimacy to rule in the eyes of his people; that he controls only a relatively small portion of his country; that he obviously has lost a great deal of military capacity, which is one of the means by which he was able to rule as a dictator and autocrat for all these many decades. I think his days are numbered. And I think that the regime’s days are numbered. And we are participating with our international partners in a number of measures designed to put pressure on Qaddafi that will hopefully convince him of what the rest of us know is true.


Q But isn’t it a bit of an overstatement, considering the fact that we keep seeing this seesaw battle across the desert? It’s clear that in certain places, Tripoli and Sirte, he has significant support not only from military elements but also from the civilian population. Isn’t it overstating it to say that his days are numbered? Couldn’t those days be quite a few?


MR. CARNEY: I think that, again, you can take a day-by-day breakdown and say he’s up, he’s down. The trend, we believe, since the coalition engaged militarily is clearly against him. And what is clear is that his days as leader of Libya are numbered and probably over, as Libya writ large. And we can’t predict, we don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know how long Qaddafi will hold on, but we believe we can work with our partners, consult with the opposition and give them the kind of advice and assistance, non-lethal or otherwise, that can help them move this process and create a situation where the Libyan people, after a very long winter, will have a chance to choose their own leaders and decide their own future.


Q But by saying “writ large,” you do concede to some extent that he could control a substantial or reduced portion of territory --


MR. CARNEY: I concede that we cannot predict to you the day that Qaddafi will leave the country or leave power.




Q Would the President seek an approval -- a resolution of approval from Congress if he decides to give any kind of armaments or military equipment to the opposition?


MR. CARNEY: That’s a double hypothetical, so I can’t -- I just don’t know.


Q He himself said in three interviews yesterday that that kind of option is still on the table; he hasn’t ruled it out. He did not go to Congress asking specific --


MR. CARNEY: And there’s great historical precedent for not doing that.


Q I’m asking -- and maybe your answer is no -- he would not go to Congress --


MR. CARNEY: It’s not. It’s just a hypothetical that I can’t entertain because the world as it is is vexing enough.


Q Does he believe he needs that authority? That’s not a hypothetical?


MR. CARNEY: Again --


Q It’s not a hypothetical.


MR. CARNEY: -- we don’t even have the circumstance before us around which to answer that question. So I’m not going to answer it as a hypothetical.



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