WASHINGTON (RNN) - More than a week after U.S.-led bombing began in Libya, President Barack Obama laid out his case for action to the nation Monday night, saying a peaceful Libya is in the best interests of the United States.
"For generations, the United States of American has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom," he said. "Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act."
Citing the freezing of Gaddafi's $33 billion in assets as well as UN-imposed sanctions and an arms embargo, the president highlighted peaceful attempts to end the violence, but said that ultimately, "the world faced a choice" when Gaddafi declared he would show "no mercy" to his people and threatened to inflict door-to-door punishment.
"We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi - a city nearly the size of Charlotte - could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world," he said. "It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen."
Obama, speaking at the National Defense University in Washington, said that American and coalition forces have "stopped Gaddafi's deadly advance" while at the same time, limiting U.S. involvement, which includes not putting American ground troops into Libya.
A full transfer of operations from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday and Obama said the United States would take more of a supporting role in the days to come.
Obama painted military action not only as a last resort, but as a moral responsibility.
"To brush aside America's responsibly as a leader and - more profoundly - our responsibility 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."
He made clear, however, that while regime change is in the best interest of Libya, it is not the ultimate goal of military action.
Obama said he and other world leaders would "actively pursue it through non-military means" but that including regime change as part of the military mission would be a mistake.
"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," he said.
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