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America must not be afraid to lead, Obama says

The lesson of Libya is that America should not be afraid to lead, President Barack Obama said during a speech at the National Defense University here today.

The action to set up a no-fly zone and protect the Libyan people from Moammar Gadhafi says much about “the use of America’s military power, and America’s broader leadership in the world, under my presidency,” Obama said.

His responsibility as commander in chief is to keep America safe. No decision, he said, weighs on him as heavily as when to deploy servicemen and women.

“I have made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests,” he said. “That is why we are going after al-Qaida wherever they seek a foothold. That is why we continue to fight in Afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in Iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country.”

But there are times when even if the United States is not directly threatened, the values and ideals of America are, he said.

“Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security – responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce,” the president said. “These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving.”

America should not be afraid to act, but the burden shouldn’t rest on American shoulders alone. With Libya, the United States mobilized for collective action to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

“Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all,” he said. “That’s the kind of leadership we have shown in Libya.”

America standing by its values is an important example to a part of the world undergoing incredible change. The people of the Middle East and North Africa refuse to be denied their rights and opportunities any longer.

“Yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time,” Obama said. “Progress will be uneven, and change will come differently in different countries. There are places, like Egypt, where this change will inspire us and raise our hopes. And there will be places, like Iran, where change is fiercely suppressed. The dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted, and difficult political and economic concerns addressed.”

The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change, that is up to the people of the region.

“But we can make a difference,” he said. “I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed against one’s own citizens; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people.”

The United States of America was born in a revolution. “We welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way,” he said. “Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith – those ideals – that are the true measure of American leadership.”

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