Obama: ‘We have a responsibility’

Danny Cozzi

Freshman theater major Richie Vavrina watched as President Barack Obama defended the first war launched on his watch.

He declared Monday night that the United States intervened in Libya to prevent a slaughter of civilians that would have stained the world’s conscience and “been a betrayal of who we are” as Americans. Yet he ruled out targeting Moammar Gadhafi, warning that trying to oust him militarily would be a mistake as costly as the war in Iraq.

Vavrina said he supported Obama’s decision.

“It’s our duty as the free world to promote freedom,” Vavrina said.

Obama announced that NATO would take command over the entire Libya operation on Wednesday, keeping his pledge to get the U.S. out of the lead fast – but offering no estimate on when the conflict might end and no details about its costs despite demands for those answers from lawmakers.

He declined to label the U.S.-led military campaign as a “war,” but made an expansive case for why he believed it was in the national interest of the United States and allies to use force.

In blunt terms, Obama said the U.S.-led response had stopped Gadhafi’s advances and halted a slaughter that could have shaken the stability of an entire region. Obama cast the intervention in Libya as imperative to keep Gadhafi from killing those rebelling against him and to prevent a refugee crisis that would drive Libyans into Egypt and Tunisia, two countries emerging from their own uprisings.

“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,” Obama said.

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” Obama said. “And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”

Mike Theodore, freshman history major, said he disagrees with Obama’s speech.

He said he believes Obama is simply trying to justify America’s involvement in the conflict by not focusing on leading the efforts, as well as not focusing on whether America should be involved at all.

“I think we have to stop picking and choosing what nations we enforce human rights violations on,” Theodore said.

Obama spoke as, in Libya, rebel forces bore down Monday on Gadhafi with the help of airstrikes by the U.S.-led forces. Junior illustration major Max Fletcher voiced the dilemma that many Americans seem to be having.

“We don’t need another war,” Fletcher said, “With that said, do I think someone needs to stop Gadhafi? Absolutely.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.