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Argument: Libyan intervention critical to US interests

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Obama Administration letter to Congress justifying Libya engagement, June 15, 2011: "The President authorized these actions for several reasons of national interest: 1. To limit the spread of violence and instability in a region pivotal to our security interests, particularly while it is undergoing sensitive transitions; 2. To prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe; and 3. To show the people of the Middle East and North Africa that America stands with them at a time of momentous transition. [...] Moreover, the Libyan government’s actions posed a significant threat to regional peace and security. As the President noted in his March 21 report to Congress, the Qadhafi regime’s 'illegitimate use of force' was 'forcing many [civilians] to flee to neighboring countries, thereby destabilizing the peace and security of the region.' 'Left unaddressed,' the President further noted, 'the growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States.' The risk of regional destabilization was also recognized by the UN Security Council, which determined in Resolution 1973 that the situation in Libya was 'a threat to international peace and security.' Indeed, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified to Congress on March 31, 'it continues to be in our national interest to prevent Qadhafi from visiting further depredations on his own people, destabilizing his neighbors, and setting back the progress the people of the Middle East have made....'"


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to Congress on March 1, "The stakes are high. And this is an unfolding example of using the combined assets of diplomacy, development and defense to protect our interests and advance our values."[1]


Text of Obama's Speech On Libya: "A Responsibility To Act." NPR.org. March 28th, 2011: "For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But 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.

Libya sits directly between Tunisia and Egypt — two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant — Moammar Gadhafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world — including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents.

Last month, Gadhafi's grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. In cities and towns across the country, Libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. As one Libyan said, "For the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over."

Faced with this opposition, Gadhafi began attacking his people. As President, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens, so we evacuated our embassy and all Americans who sought our assistance. Then we took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer Gadhafi's aggression. We froze more than $33 billion of Gadhafi's regime's assets. Joining with other nations at the United Nations Security Council, we broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo, and enabled Gadhafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. I made it clear that Gadhafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead, and I said that he needed to step down from power.

In the face of the world's condemnation, Gadhafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misurata was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air.

Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition and the Arab League appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. And so at my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass a historic resolution that authorized a no-fly zone to stop the regime's attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.

Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Gadhafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.

At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Gadhafi declared he would show "no mercy" to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted — if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.

It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973."

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