President Obama sent a message tonight to some of the naysayers on his Libya policy:
"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," Obama said.
"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."
Obama framed his anticipated Libya speech tonight around the greatness of America and what separates it from others, with a genuine tip of the hat to the U.S. Armed Forces.
"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," Obama said in his remarks at the National Defense University.
Obama said NATO will take over the mission Wednesday with the U.S. playing a support role, as promised. The U.S. will not increase its role and while it would be best for Gadhafi to go, regime change is not the mission's purpose, Obama said.
The President politely made the contrast with the Iraq War as he reinforced his decision against using ground forces in Libya.
"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," Obama said.
The President called on America's better angels to see that sometimes the greatest nation in the world is called to step up. Libya is one such case, especially as it threatened the stability of the fragile emerging democratic neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia.
"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," Obama said.
"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, 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."
You can watch the President's speech here.