Last night President Obama tried mightily, in the loftiest of terms, to defend U.S. involvement in Libya. Yet the soaring ideals he espoused seemed no more applicable to Libya than to any other nation facing a rebellion. His reasoning seemed to justify intervention whenever someone violates not our security, not our economic interests, but our values:
… 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.
… 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. …
Obama’s careful words and delicate shades of meaning and nuance were lost in the fog of war already raging; there’s nothing nuanced about bombs and bullets.
And after all the grand rationale for our presence in Libya — which should have come before, not after, the commitment of our resources — there was still no clear statement of when or how or under what circumstances we will withdraw.
The questions remain. Nothing Obama said last night made any difference.