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TUESDAY HOT READ: UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

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 The president made his case, but didn't answer some of the big questions, says Marc Ambinder. 

 

So why is Libya different than countries like Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria, where the regimes in power are, to various degrees, violently suppressing dissent?

Here, Obama was oblique. His answer, basically, is that the world is “complicated,” and that Americans would have to accept a large degree of uncertainty.

“It is 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,” he said. “But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right.” (The word “never” was underlined in the speech text e-mailed to reporters.)

The unrest in the Arab world “will make the world more complicated for a time. Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently in different countries. There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. And 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 addressed. “

It's telling that Obama was deliberately vague at other times. For instance, he said that the handoff of control of the operation to NATO would cut costs for the United States but he never said by how much. 

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Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner's reaction.

“Better late than never, was my immediate thought when it was announced that President Obama would address the American public about U.S. actions in Libya.

“I question how Noble Peace Prize winner, President Obama, who up until last week expressed a much different tone on Libya, now is involving U.S. troops in a large military action; and then how he delayed explaining to the American people his justification for spending more than $1 billion to do so.

“The American people, who are already seeing their friends, neighbors and family members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, deserve better from their President. They deserve answers.

“Furthermore, with President Obama already having pledged to bring many of our men and women in uniform home, Congress should have been consulted before the President put more troops in harm’s way. Instead, the President deferred to other countries.

“Our nation has a long history of promoting individual freedom. However, when the President says ‘the United States will do our part to help,’ what does that mean and what is President Obama’s benchmark for leaving Libya? What is our objective? If Muammar Quadhafi is not defeated or does not step down, will the U.S. remain, for how long and who? If other nations begin to disengage from the coalition, will we remain or will we disengage as well? And if the President wants to actively pursue Quadhafi being out of power ‘through non-military means,’ how long will our military have a presence in Libya?

“President Obama needed to replace confusion with some certainty tonight, but he failed. We now have even more questions than answers. The American people, Congress, and the men and women serving in Operation Odyssey Dawn deserve to know the clear objective and the plan to achieve it. We did not hear that tonight.”

 

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