By Sam Youngman - 05/25/11 04:07 PM EDT
President Obama told Great Britain’s Parliament Wednesday that the leadership of the United States and Britain is “indispensable to this moment of history.”
In a wide-ranging, rare address by a U.S. president to Parliament, Obama presented an optimistic vision for the future after a decade of conflict and economic catastrophe.
In addressing the revolutions that have gripped the Middle East for the last six months, Obama declared the United States will stand with democratic reformers, saying that “the entire world has a stake in the aspirations of a generation that longs to determine its own destiny.”
The president said that the U.S. and the U.K. will stand with those who yearn for freedom, saying that is why the two countries are engaged in a bombing campaign against Libya.
In defending NATO air strikes against leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, Obama noted possible presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s (R-Utah) argument that “it would have been easy at the outset of the crackdown in Libya to say ‘that's none of our business.’ ”
“That argument carries weight with some, but we are different,” Obama said. “We embrace a broader responsibility. And while we cannot stop every injustice, there are circumstances that cut through caution.”
The president said that is why “we stopped a massacre in Libya, and we will not relent until the people of Libya are protected and the shadow of repression is lifted.”
Obama said that American and British leadership is crucial in shaping the future of Middle East nations.
“If we fail to meet that responsibility, who would take our place, and what kind of world would we pass on?” Obama asked.
At a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron earlier Wednesday, Obama acknowledged the limitations that come from only waging an air campaign against Libya, but he repeated that he will not send in ground troops.
Cameron said the British government is looking for ways to turn “up the heat in Libya.”
The president refused to commit to more military intervention in Libya, but warned Gadhafi that the U.S. is not letting up until the Libyan people are free from tyranny. And for that to happen, Obama said, Gadhafi must leave power.
“Gadhafi and his regime need to understand that there will not be a letup in the pressure that we are applying,” Obama said.
“I believe that we have built enough momentum that as long as we sustain the course that we’re on, that he is ultimately going to step down. And we will continue to work with our partners to achieve that."
Obama warned at the press conference that “ultimately this is going to be a slow, steady process in which we’re able to wear down the regime forces and change the political calculations of the Gadhafi regime to the point where they finally realize that they’re not going to control this country.”
“And as long as we remain resolute, I think we're going to be able to achieve that mission,” Obama said.
The president said that, thanks to the alliance between the U.S. and England, Iraq and Afghanistan have “turned a corner.”
The president noted that the combat mission in Iraq has ended, the global economy is “now stable and recovering” and in Afghanistan, allied forces have made enough gains to reach a point where a transition of security responsibilities can begin this summer.
In his remarks to Parliament, Obama also noted that the U.S. “dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing Osama bin Laden.”
“Our two nations know what it is to confront evil in the world,” Obama said, referring to the alliance that defeated Adolf Hitler and his armies in World War II.
In all these conflicts, Obama said, the U.S. and the U.K. “remain the greatest catalyst for global action.”
“We do these things because we believe not simply in the rights of nations,” Obama said. “We believe in the rights of citizens.”