WASHINGTON â€” President Barack Obama sent a signal to the country and the world Monday night about his decision to attack Libya: There is no â€œObama doctrineâ€ here.
Obama used his speech to assure skeptical Americans that he was forced to act by a madman in unique circumstances, that the U.S. role and risk would be limited, and that there are no unifying principles behind the Libya campaign that would guide the U.S. in other countries with similar problems.
Obama demonstrated how the lack of a clear, simple doctrine left many Americans cool to the U.S. military action and skeptical about whether the president and his allies have clear goals. He tried to explain the seemingly conflicting policies that itâ€™s in Americaâ€™s interest to press Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to give up power, but itâ€™s not worth the risk to use U.S. military power to do it. The military mission is only to protect civilians, he said.
â€œI know,â€ Obama said, â€œthat some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya.â€
For Obama, Mondayâ€™s speech was his first chance to talk directly to Americans from U.S. soil since the bombing of Libya began on March 19. He was in Latin America when the airstrikes started, and he spoke briefly that day from Brazil.
Upon returning to the U.S. five days later, he found the country cool to the idea of another U.S. military action â€” the fourth in a Muslim country after Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
Just 39 percent of Americans think Obama has clear goals in Libya, while 50 percent think he doesnâ€™t, according to poll results released Monday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
Just 47 percent of Americans support the U.S. airstrikes, while 36 percent donâ€™t and 17 percent donâ€™t know, according to the Pew poll.
The Gallup Poll found similar results, the lowest level of initial support for a U.S. military action in at least three decades, and the first time in 10 interventions dating to the 1983 invasion of Grenada that a majority of Americans didnâ€™t support the action at the onset.
Obama also faced people at home and abroad who are eager to learn if heâ€™s committing the country to intervene against tyranny as anti-government demonstrations spread through North Africa and the Middle East.
He said he isnâ€™t.
First, he said, he was compelled to stop Gadhafi from slaughtering his own people. Mindful of how President Bill Clinton did not act to stop genocide in Rwanda, Obama said he wouldn’t wait.