White House says Libya decision based on 'best interests'

No sense of precedent guided President Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya, administration officials said Monday.

"We don’t make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent," said Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughLive coverage: Justice IG testifies before House on report criticizing FBI Ex-Obama chief of staff: Obama's Russia response was 'watered down' Former Obama officials launch advocacy group aimed at Trump's foreign policy MORE, the administration's deputy national security adviser, amid an off-camera gaggle of reporters. "We make them based on how we can best advance our interests in the region."

McDonough was speaking hours before President Obama’s speech Monday night on Libya. He explained that there were compelling reasons to get involved in Libya as opposed to Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, four other countries in the Middle East where pro-democracy crowds have battled authoritarian governments.


Administration officials wouldn’t outline the contents of Obama’s speech, and McDonough’s remarks suggest Obama is unlikely to lay out any doctrine encompassing the administration’s philosophy for intervening in foreign conflicts.

Obama will make his case for the short-lived U.S. military offensive in Libya to the public in a speech Monday night from the National Defense University in Washington.

The speech will provide the president his greatest opportunity so far to take his case for intervention in Libya to the public.

Polls have found mixed views on Obama’s decision to join other United Nations members in air strikes against Libya. Lawmakers in both parties have criticized the White House for a lack of consultations, and Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger Juan Williams: The GOP can't govern MORE (R-Ohio) slammed a “sometimes contradictory” explanation for the action.

Monday’s speech is part of a blitz by the White House to win support from the public and Congress for Obama’s actions. After Monday’s address, Obama on Tuesday will sit for interviews with the anchors of NBC, ABC and CBS.

McDonough emphasized the differences between the situation in Libya and clashes between anti-government demonstrators and ruling governments in other countries in the Middle East.

In particular, McDonough referenced Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s direct threats of violence against some of his own citizens as part of the reason the U.S. felt compelled to get its military involved in Libya.

Obama sought to reach out to lawmakers last week by providing a briefing to top members of Congress in both parties and from both chambers, notifying them of the progress of military operations and the eventual transfer in responsibility for the operation to NATO, which took charge on Sunday evening.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the White House had no objections to lawmakers asking questions, though he strongly rebuffed the notion that the administration hadn’t been fully forthcoming in its briefings of lawmakers.

“Questions are legitimate; they deserve to be answered,” he said. “We have endeavored to answer them.”