President Obama said Saturday that he sent U.S. warplanes into Libya a week ago to avert a "humanitarian catastrophe" and a "blood bath," and he denied that the U.S. is being drawn into a wider war there.
"The United States should not -- and cannot -- intervene every time there's a crisis somewhere in the world," the president said in his Saturday radio address. "But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized, when someone like [Moammar] Kadafii threats a blood bath that could destabilize an entire region, and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives, then it's in our national interest to act. And it's our responsibility. This is one of those times."
Obama stressed that the U.S. involvement is limited. "We are not putting any ground forces into Libya," he said. "This is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea."
Because the president acted quickly and without consulting Congress in advance, some critics on Capitol Hill have said he overstepped his authority by launching a new war. Although the Constitution gives Congress the power to "declare war," presidents since World War II have launched military operations around the world without formal approval from Congress.
Obama described the Libyan intervention as an emergency response to save lives, rather than a military attack designed to drive Kadafi from power.
"We're succeeding in our mission," he said, because the Libyan forces loyal to Kadafi are no longer advancing on Benghazi, a city of 700,000 people.
"So make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians -- innocent men, women and children -- have been saved," the president said.
He did not, however, try to spell out how the military intervention in Libya would end, except to say that Kadafi "has lost the confidence of his people, and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libya people must be realized."
The president is expected to address the nation Monday evening on the military operation in Libya.