Home National Politics Coalition Forces Begin Military Operations in Libya

Coalition Forces Begin Military Operations in Libya


Operation “Odyssey Dawn” in Libya has begun. I’ve been watching coverage on the BBC. According to President Obama, “This is not an outcome the U.S. or any of our partners sought…We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy.” Obama also says, “We are acting in the interest of the United States and the world.” British Prime Minister David Cameron adds, “we have to enforce the will of the United Nations and we cannot allow the slaughter of civilians to continue.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy says, “We are doing it to protect the civilian population from the murderous madness of a regime that in killing its own people has lost all legitimacy.”

Also see Secretary of State Clinton’s statement here, in which she says that the United States is supporting “an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce the terms of Resolution 1973.” Mark Knoller tweets, “At the Pentagon, Vice Admiral William Gortney said the missile strikes intended to protect coalition pilots & Libyan people.”

From what I’ve seen so far, there are widely mixed views on both the left and the right, with many of the same people who opposed the Iraq War (at least after it started going badly, as most Americans supported it when it was going well) now either quiet or positively inclined towards this campaign. On the right, so far, Republicans in Congress have been either quiet (Boehner, McConnell) or supportive (John McCain, Lindsey Graham) for the most part. Personally, I have mixed feelings, but lean towards being supportive overall. So, what do you think of this operation?

P.S. The Libyan government is claiming this is a “barbaric aggression against the Libyan people,” and despite Libya having (supposedly) complied with the UN Security Council resolution and ceased fire. They have also referred (predictably) to the “crusaders enemy” and “Zionist conspiracy.”

UPDATE: President Obama’s statement is on the “flip.”


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release            March 19, 2011



Tryp Convention Brasil 21 Center

Brasilia, Brazil

5:07 P.M. BRT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.

In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people. That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.

This is not an outcome that the United States or any of our partners sought. Even yesterday, the international community offered Muammar Qaddafi the opportunity to pursue an immediate cease-fire, one that stopped the violence against civilians and the advances of Qaddafi’s forces. But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity. His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. And the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.

I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it’s not a choice that I make lightly. But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misurata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.

So we must be clear: Actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced. That is the cause of this coalition.

As a part of this effort, the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners. And as I said yesterday, we will not — I repeat — we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have great confidence in the men and women of our military who will carry out this mission. They carry with them the respect of a grateful nation.

I’m also proud that we are acting as part of a coalition that includes close allies and partners who are prepared to meet their responsibility to protect the people of Libya and uphold the mandate of the international community.

I’ve acted after consulting with my national security team, and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. And in the coming hours and days, my administration will keep the American people fully informed. But make no mistake: Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.

Thank you very much.

  • I’m very surprised, honestly, at this reaction.

  • kindler

    Last week, I said heck no and listed a number of international players that ought to step up and lead any such action before the US.

    To my astonishment, most of those players have since stepped up — with the Arab League no-fly zone resolution, the UN Security Council resolution, and NATO action, with France and England taking the military lead.  I never thought that China in particular would have allowed the UN vote to go through, considering the precedent that it sets re: intervening in what they have always labeled “internal affairs.”  

    Do all of these people read Blue Virginia?  😉

    I am also very pleased with President Obama’s statements on the matter. Can you imagine if Bush had made statements — and meant them — before the Iraq War, like “I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it’s not a choice that I make lightly.” or “we will not — I repeat — we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground.”

    Basically, this is starting like Bush I’s Gulf War — with limited objectives and the international community in alignment.  If you have to do it, that’s the right way to do it.

    That said, I still have deep trepidations.  A third war in a Moslem country?  How much farther can we stretch our military?  And how many domestic priorities will we need to drop to pay for the vast cost of one more operation?  I certainly hope that we tap the deep pockets of our friends in the Arab League who called for this no-fly zone to cover this action.

    I also think that major military actions should be submitted to Congress for consideration — we have had too many “undeclared wars” that have expanded the power of the president and the military-industrial complex to the detriment of democracy.

  • Venu

    any substantive justification for U.S. and international military provocation. Libya is in a civil war. There is strong sentiment within Libya both for and against Quadaffi. Unneeded action in the Middle East has been the U.S.’s Achilles Heel, and it appears President Obama seems content with maintaining that situation. The United States has no business whatsoever in launching air-strikes into Libya. The most readily apparent comparisons would be the 2003 Invasion of Iraq or the 2006 Israeli Invasion of Lebanon.

  • Teddy Goodson

    in the military action; without that showing up soon, this will be yet another West versus Muslim country. As I recall, it was not until the Arab League requested intervention/no fly zone that Obama agreed to go along, even though early on Obama said Gadaffi should step down. I understand that Turkey has said it will participate, but Turkey, while Muslim, is not, of course, Arab. Where are Qatar, etc.?

    I find it interesting that right up until the very moment of the UN no-fly-plus-military intervention resolution, almost everyone here (including Sec. of State Clinton, some said) and abroad were asking “where’s Obama?” and complaining about his dithering. It now appears that Obama was working madly behind the scenes (like a duck serenely floating around the pond while actually paddling like mad underneath the water, out of sight) to secure Arab backing and create a firm coalition in which another country than the US would take the point—- it was, haha, French Mirage jets which made the very first sorties.

    Meanwhile, Bahrain is in some ways an even more vital flashpoint. It is there that we may be seeing the beginning of a genuine intra-Muslim war, Sunni vs Shia, the first shots of which have already been fired in Iraq; i.e., Shia Iran against Sunni Saudi. It would be ironic if, while we are fixated on Libya, the rest of the Middle East exploded in its own home-grown war.

  • NWVirginian

    I’ve seen some folks in the comments here compare this to Desert Storm and the opening salvos in Afghanistan.  But, I think that the more appropriate analogy the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia.

    Civil War

    Nasty bad guys

    Human Rights Issues


    No US ground forces – this is the key point where I see the similarity.

  • can we please vote some foreign aid to Japan already? There is DEFINITE justification for that.

    But no, we have to start a third war, on who’s behalf? We really don’t know. Maybe Iran?

  • leftspace13

    … of large state intervention short of blue helmets physically interposing themselves between would-be killers and victims.  the kosovo war has been cited in previous comments, but allow me to counter-cite:


    especially for hyperpowers loathe to put any of its ground troops at risk (and by this i mean, again, blue helmet garrisons with far more boots than were allocated for bosnia or rwanda, as opposed to invasions and occupations), war from afar can be less discriminate with cruise missiles as hammers beating upon all sorts of people.  so far there seems to be no info on collateral damage, but these things are never neat.  

    two other aspects: a) it’s galling to cite the arab league as a legitimizing body for this operation when many of that organization’s member nations are engaged in putting down protesters elsewhere — to have qatari jets and support in the coalition attacking gadhafi while they also send 500 troops to put down protesters in bahrain is quite the befuddling cognitive dissonance (and leads to questions of al jazeera coverage in bahrain, btw).  it makes me fear what such alignments shall lead to — U.S. going easier on saudis et al?  more cover for gulf autocracies to claim protesters as illegitimate, etc?

    b) in degrading gadhafi’s capabilities, shall this lead to a swifter resolution or a more protracted civil war?

    ultimately i have no time for parsing political taxonomies of what is left or right in this situation (hate the dkos commenter attempting to label a “doctrinaire left” and “pragmatic left,” that’s an attempt at marginalizing certain constructive discourse imho) — again, i do have a bias against large state or even global interventions when the tools are mass-casualty weapons.  i do give our leaders (well, current leaders, heh) more credit that they think these things through, still, unintended consequences and all…  

    so, at the risk of abdicating moral responsibility, i assume a wait-and-see posture with fearful skepticism (i mean, not that anyone cares what my posture is, but you asked for reader input, lowell).  

  • For what it’s worth, I was in favor of going into the Balkans (my husband and I were personally very involved in that conflict, actually.  He was, at one time, helping to take money from our federal government into Belgrade to keep the only non-government presses running during the war….)  I was also, as a young adult, in favor of going into Iraq in 1991, and in favor of going into Afghanistan with air strikes.  I tend to be pretty hawkish by nature.

    That said, I was not in favor of the Iraq war in 2002, mostly because I believed we had the time to figure out how we might (if necessary) go in properly and were being railroaded into a timeline that was not in our best interests.  Again, not because of any ideological stand against using war, but because I thought out emotions were too far ahead of our brains.

    So I appreciate everyone’s skepticism, and I think that all Democrats (and Republicans) should hear all sides out.  But Libya, to me, isn’t the same as some of these other conflicts.  There is something more fundamental here and personal to the US and Europe, that I think the Arab world gets and is, perhaps, more lenient towards us because of it.  The whole PanAm shooting is still very real in people’s minds.  The bombing of Libya in 1986 is well remembered.  This isn’t the same as other places, and I, for one support what Obama is doing (especially the international coalition that has been created), not because he is a Democrat, and not because I think that we can go into every country and solve every (heck, solve any) of their internal problems, but because enough is enough, and it is time for this particular Dictator to stop destroying the world in little pieces, including his own people.