Kish and I listened to President Obama’s speech tonight about the United States’ participation in the international coalition efforts in Libya. I am glad that he decided to speak to the American people about the nature and scope of the United States’ mission in Libya, because I think Presidents have a responsibility give the American people an explanation whenever they determine that military force is necessary.
I say this not because I think people should second-guess the President’s reasons for action — in my view, performing the kind of complex foreign policy balancing that tonight’s speech described is one of the reasons why we elect a President in the first place — but because I agree with the President that the decision to use military force is one of the most momentous decisions any President can make. The sons and daughters of Americans are put at risk whenever the United States military is summoned to duty, and it is not unfair to require a President to explain why that risk is necessary. Indeed, if a President were unable to bring himself to address the nation to provide such an explanation, that probably would indicate that the decision was not a well-reasoned one.
I do not understand why President Obama delayed in providing his explanation about Libya. Perhaps he wanted to wait until he could announce a date certain for the hand-off of responsibility to NATO forces, or until the military situation was clarified. In any case, I am relieved that he has now spoken to the nation and described the basis for his decision. Having that explanation, all Americans now can decide whether we agree with the President’s reasoning and can draw our own conclusions. That is how democracy should work.