We have combined the updates published by the BBC and The Guardian which have brilliantly summarized President Barack Obama’s address today on Libya.
12.32am: Obama has started by paying tribute to US troops on the ground in Afghanistan and on duty elsewhere
12.33am: “Mindful of the cost of military action, we are reluctant to use force,” he said, but there has been a responsibility to act in the case of Libya.
12.35am: In the face of the world’s condemnation, Gaddafi chose to escalate his attacks rather than stepping down, Obama said.
“At my direction, American led and effort without allies at the UN to pass an historic resolution,” he said, name-checking “European allies” and the Arab League.
12.38am: The rebel-held city of Benghazi would have suffered a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and “stained the conscience of the world” if action had not been taken, said Obama.
12.39am: In just one month, the US has worked with our international partners, secured a coalition, stopped an advancing army and secured a no-fly zone, the president said.
To put it in context, he added “when people were being brutalised” in Bosnia in the 1990s it took the international community as long as a year.
“It took us 31 days,” he said.
12.42am: The president is now moving in a section of the speech that appears designed to underline how the US is pulling back from the operation, after succeeding in its initial goals.
“The United States of American has done what we said we would do,” he said.
“That is not to say our work is complete,” says the president, who outlines how the US military will continue to be involved in the Nato operation, while humanitarian aid will continue to be provided to the Libyan people.
12.48am: The President is now tackling the argument of critics on the Libyan intervention.
“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” he said.
“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”
12.50am: “Moreover, America has an important strategic interest in preventing Gaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him,” he adds.
“A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful – yet fragile – transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power.”
“The writ of the UN Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling its future credibility to uphold global peace and security. So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.”
12.51am: Obama added: “The task that I assigned our forces – to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a No Fly Zone – carries with it a UN mandate and international support. It is also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do.”
“If we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs, and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.”
“To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya. “
12.52am: Turning to the road ahead, he said: “As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do – and will do – is support the aspirations of the Libyan people.”
“We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners as they’re in the lead to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supply of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Gaddafi leaves power.”
“It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Gaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Gadaffi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on his side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.”
12.53am: The president cited the warm welcome afforded to US pilots whose jet fighter crashed in the east of Libya.
It was a reflection, he said, of the desire for change and a sign of hope, even after the “demonisation” of the US for so long by Gaddafi.
Wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States, he added.
12:54am: Mr Obama says his vision is to enter into military action with coalition partners where possible, rather than going it alone. “As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilise the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves,” he says.
12:56am: “The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that,” says Mr Obama.
12:58am: As the address draws to a close, President Obama reaches out to critics who believe matters at home should be his top priority, saying: “As I have said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength at home.”