Obama's Libya speech: How the president's grand talk about American interests conflicts with his military strategy.

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March 28 2011 11:11 PM

The Real Obama Doctrine

How the president's grand talk about American interests conflicts with his military strategy in Libya.

Read more of Slate's coverage of the  Libya conflict.

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Obama also made the case for a different kind of leadership. "American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves," he said. "Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well."

The speech was mostly backward-looking. Questions about the future—the questions members of Congress want answered—were left largely unaddressed. What does the mission look like in the future? When does the United States leave? What happens if Qaddafi holds on?

The tension in the U.S. position rests between the president's constant assertions that the military mission is strictly limited to humanitarian assistance and the fact that the military mission is aiding those trying to remove Qaddafi from power. The U.N. resolution calls for protecting the citizens of Libya, but NATO isn't simply protecting civilians huddled in their homes. The attacks, including U.S. airpower, are aiding those civilians marching on Tripoli to change the regime. That's not something the president can admit, however. It wouldn't be prudent.

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