Speaking Monday evening from Fort McNair, President Barack Obama sought to champion the “historic” US war in Libya to the American public. One day after Secretary of Defense Robert Gates informed Americans that the war was not a “vital interest,” President Obama was insisting that it also wasn’t in America’s interest to not attack Libya.
He sought simultaneously to mock those who rejected the war as expensive and unnecessary, insisting that not attacking Libya would be a “betrayal of who we are,” while trying to position his role as the moderate one. The message is that the Obama Administration is attacking Libya just a little bit, instead of the massive war a handful of senators advocate.
At the same time, he appeared quite proud of the speed with which he started this war, comparing it to the “full year” it took for the Clinton Administration to start the Bosnia war.
More important, perhaps, was what wasn’t addressed: the possibility of the war ending. With officials now openly talking the mission up as lasting months, President Obama never suggested anything resembling a timetable, insisting that there would be a “transition to the future” and that the international community would impose a strong government after the Gadhafi regime was ousted.
Even this wasn’t necessarily a military goal, however, as the president insisted the US would “keep the pressure on Gadhafi” and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was planning to meet with rebels on Tuesday, but giving the indication that the war, like his other wars, would be an open-ended one.