Intervention in Libya should be kept short

Freedom New Mexico

President Barack Obama, seeking to control what’s happening in Libya, tried at least to control the message. The president said during his speech at the National Defense University that U.S. intervention, which began March 19, stopped a massacre, denied Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi access to billions in assets, assisted Libyan rebels and ultimately will hasten the day the tyrant will leave power.

“As president I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action,” he said. When U.S. interests and values are threatened, Obama said, “we should not be afraid to act. But the burden … should not be America’s alone.”

Obama sought to add coherence to a month of mixed messages on Libya. He has said Gadhafi must go, but isn’t personally a military target. The mission first was to establish a no-fly zone, but escalated to heavy bombardment of ground forces. It ostensibly was humanitarian, but the Libyan government says the U.S. has killed civilians. Obama promised the mission was restricted to preventing Gadhafi from killing rebels, and hasn’t provided arms to the rebels to use against Gadhafi. Although the president said NATO will take over no-fly zone and other military operations this week, the U.S. will continue in supportive roles.

It remains unknown how and when this unclear, if not confused, policy will end. The president said the U.S. can’t police every human-rights violation. But he didn’t say what will happen if Middle East nations with governments friendlier to the U.S. continue their crackdowns, sometimes lethal, on pro-democracy protesters, threatening massacre of innocents.

The president said earlier Monday that U.S. involvement will be “limited, both in time and scope.” We have his word this war won’t be eternal. That’s not terribly encouraging, considering his previous promises and proclamations.