For those who welcomed a thoughtful, analytical, measured President after the pietistic, never-in-doubt George W. Bush, Barack Obama’s latest Big Speech is a reminder that words can cloud as well as clarify.
The President now tells us that “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.” But that assertion is not supported by hard facts any more than was Bush’s warnings about Iraq.
No matter how carefully he explains the U.S. military involvement with no matter how much emphasis on the U.N. and NATO, Americans are left with a carefully crafted but confusing explanation of, to put it bluntly, what the hell we are doing in Libya.
“Some nations,” Barack Obama tells us, “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.”
Yet less than a minute later, he adds: “But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
As the ground action in Libya starts to look like a civil war, where does this leave us for the long run?