President Barack Obama recently addressed Americans on the necessity for U.S.-led military action in Libya. "For generations," he said, "America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. . . .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."
For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant – Muammar Gadhafi. 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.
In March, it appeared that Gadhafi's grip on power was slipping. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. But faced with this opposition, Gadhafi began attacking his people. The world's condemnation only led Gadhafi to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people.
"It was not in our national interest to let that happen," said President Obama:
"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."
Even as NATO has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone, the United States will continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator but its people. 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.
"We welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa," said President Obama, "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."