The President Speaks. The People Respond

The President Speaks. The People Respond

Monday night, President Obama made his case to the nation, addressing mounting concerns about the country’s participation in the Libya mission.

Published March 28, 2011

On Monday night, President Obama made his case to the nation, addressing mounting concerns about the country’s participation in the Libya mission. 

Ever since the United States announced its involvement earlier this month,  the White House has been inundated with questions.  How long will we be in Libya?  How much will it cost? What’s our country’s role in Libya’s on-going civil war? And what is the end-game if forces in Libya reach a stalemate? (Related reading: Libya FAQ | Speech transcript)

The president’s goal was to explain “what we’ve done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.” How did he do? Well, it depends on who you ask.  Obama described the mission’s objectives this way: “In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners.”

But with a slew of domestic issues from unemployment to education reform on the table, some are still wondering why Libya is now a high-stakes priority. The reaction on Facebook and Twitter is mixed:

Elliott Garrett writes: “It had to be done. If we don’t stand for saving lives of the oppressed then what do we really stand for as a nation?”

SultanaBianca writes: “America has a strong military…They are trained for situations like this to help the innocent victims.”

Military conflicts cost money. And although the president was keen to acknowledge that there are costs involved he countered, “I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.” But undertaking a military mission in the face of problems here on the home front is prompting criticism across the social media spectrum.

Lovingme$lyfe writes: “Gas prices are too damn high but we need to make a resolution.”

A growing chorus of comments from Capitol Hill about the president’s speech are coming in. Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver released a statement saying, “As an ordained minister, I am an advocate of the seven principles of a just war which are not, in my opinion, theologically present in the military policy relating to Libya. As a member of Congress, however, I can understand the position that President Obama was in to protect the Libyan people in order to prevent a potential genocide.” 

But some of Obama’s Republican detractors are not so convinced about the speech’s effectiveness.  A statement from House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steele said, "The speech failed to provide Americans much clarity to our involvement in Libya. Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: What does success in Libya look like?"

Perhaps the most important question on the minds of people is "are we in the middle of yet another war?”  The president was careful never to characterize the Libyan military intervention as a war, per se. Instead he referred to the mission as “an international effort.”  Without a doubt, there are still questions swirling about how the U.S. could add Libya to an already full plate that includes Iraq and Afghanistan. Facebook member Maseruka Ismail writes, “Mr. President you promised no wars like Bush, but it seems like you have forgot your words!”

It appears that even the president’s attempt to “make it plain” in Monday night's speech has left some with lingering questions.

The president announced that the transfer of full command from the U.S. to NATO in protecting Libyan civilians will take place Wednesday, a date that is welcome news to Rep. James Clyburn. “I am pleased that NATO will take control of the enforcement of the arms embargo and No Fly Zone on Wednesday, and equally pleased that the United States will take a supporting role in this effort,” he said. “We cannot afford another Iraq or Afghanistan and I firmly believe that the president fully understands that.”

From lawmakers to laymen, reaction to the president’s plan in Libya appears to hover between skepticism and support. There seems to be an overarching agreement that even if our involvement is justified, it’s the latest in a string of crises staring us in the face.

Facebook friend BigSaintPaul offers his own simple, yet poignant, analysis of the situation that few will dispute. He writes, “We got enough problems.”

(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Written by Andre Showell


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