Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Analysis of President Obama's Speech
Aired March 28, 2011 - 19:58 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States speaking for just shy of 27 minutes at the National Defense University, just outside of Washington, D.C., at Fort McNair, strongly defending his policy in Libya, saying the United States had done exactly what it promised to do in stopping what he said could have been a massacre in Benghazi and other cities in Libya's east -- also, saying the United States now will step back and let others take charge of the coalition.
The president acknowledging Moammar Gadhafi might not be gone overnight, but saying the policy so far, in his view, is a success, and to go further would have been -- he said, bluntly, he used the word -- to repeat George W. Bush's mistakes in Iraq, not only put more Americans at risk, but also risk losing international support.
Our special coverage of the president's address and the conflicts in Libya continues now. I'm joined by my colleagues Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer.
And, Anderson, as you take this away, the president obviously speaking to the people of the United States, the people of Libya, and a global audience wondering just what's next here.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Yes, multiple audience is obviously watching around the world and around the United States, John. And as you said, I'm joined by Wolf Blitzer in the Washington, D.C. for the next hour of coverage.
Wolf, it was interesting, the president not just trying to explain the mission in terms of sense of moral responsibility to act, to stop the potential slaughter of civilians in the seconds largest city in Libya, in Benghazi, but also along strategic interests, the grounds of national interest -- strategic interest, by saying to not have acted would have sent a message to other repressive leaders in the region perhaps that they can respond to democratic uprisings in their countries through greater acts of violence, and also explaining the flood of refugees would have upset the fragile movements in Egypt, as well as in Tunisia.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And it's very fragile in Egypt and Tunisia. I was just there the other day with the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I can tell you that it's very, very fragile that reform movement in both of those countries right now.
I think what we just heard, Anderson, from the president of the United States is the most -- the clearest form of what we can call the Obama doctrine, when to deploy U.S. military forces around the world.
He laid out the case when it's in the United States' interest to use military force, when it's in the United States' interest not to use military force, and this is the example that he gave. This is going to be the precedent, what the United States has done now in Libya, presumably given the explosion of unrest that's happening right now throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
If there are similar circumstances that develop in other countries, whether in Syria, whether in Yemen and Bahrain, and the potential for mass slaughter of civilians is there, the pressure will be on this president to go ahead and authorize what the president authorized in Libya.
And the greatest example potentially for the U.S., if there's a revolution, and if there's serious unrest once again in Iran and the people are standing up to Ahmadinejad and some of the ayatollahs in Iran, and there is the potential for significant slaughter, will the U.S. and France and England and other countries in the NATO alliance, and in the region, take similar action as far as Iran is concerned.
He's laid it out all here. I think we can call this, Anderson, the Obama doctrine.
COOPER: Well, he also made it very clear what the limits of this mission as he sees it and what it is under the U.N. mandate, the U.N. Security Council mandate that though the U.S. does want regime change in Libya, does want to see Gadhafi out, that is not the goal of this mission.
The goal of this mission is to protect civilians, even though larger U.S. interests would like to see Gadhafi on the move.
I want to bring in -- show you our correspondents who are around the world right now. We've got Nic Robertson in Tripoli. Arwa Damon who's with the opposition forces in Ajdabiya. We also have Ivan Watson in Cairo and Mohammed Jamjoom in Abu Dhabi.
But I want to start with Nic and Arwa in -- who are in Libya right now.
Arwa, you have been following forces as they have been moving west, but that westward movement, which has basically been made possible because of coalition airstrikes and coalition attacks, has basically stopped now. What's the latest?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson, it has. And we basically saw the opposition moving forward fairly easily thanks to those airstrikes three areas like Ajdabiya, then to the critical oil town of Brega, Ras Lanuf.
But then today they began to hit the tribal pro-Gadhafi areas. And that is where they're running into an entirely different dynamic. One small town they went into that's around 60 miles to the east of Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, opposition fighters were driven out of there by armed residents. They say that these residents were armed by Gadhafi himself, but they went in to search these homes and then they were fired on. As they began their withdrawal, their retreat because they claim they did not want to fire back on the civilian population and cause collateral damage, they say that they came under a hail of gun fire.
And this is a very disturbing development here because it now adds this dynamic whereby which the opposition is not only going to have to fight Gadhafi's military, it is going to have to fight armed civilians as well. And in this case, when this battle turns into a street-by-street fight, what does the coalition do? That's a big question.
COOPER: Nic Robertson in Tripoli, were residents of Tripoli able to actually hear President Obama's speech on television? Was it broadcast on any of the television there? And what kind of a reaction do you think it will get?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it wasn't broadcast on state television, but plenty of people here pick up satellite channels like CNN so you can guarantee plenty of people will have been watching it.
I think for Moammar Gadhafi, he's going to be feeling like he's dodged a bullet here. If the mission isn't too broaden to a regime change, he knows essentially he's bought himself more time. But this is a deeply suspicious leadership that already thinks and calls this a crusader campaign to bring back colonialism to the country, to divide the country, to split off the oil profits from this country, to take them away from the leadership.
So he will be looking and examining this, I would imagine, with a view to figuring out, OK, I have bought some more time, how can I hold on? What am I going to be able to do here? What can I get away with? Can I finish off the fight in Misrata then defeat the civilians there?
He's already been making the case that if the coalition was to continue its campaign, as Arwa witnessed today outside of Sirte, his hometown, that because Gadhafi and his government have handed out so many weapons to tribes loyal to them, he's been counting on these tribes to rise up and face the rebels when they come, that essentially these would be -- in his words, in the government's words -- civilians.
So if the coalition were to target these civilians that would obviously weaken the coalition's position and go against the U.N. mandate. So this is something he's been counting on and clearly President Obama recognized him that in what he was saying.
So for Gadhafi, I think we can expect for him to feel that he's bought some time and I think we can expect -- expect to see him to do some recalibrating. I don't think we can expect to see him backing down and opting for regime change easily himself.
COOPER: Arwa, as Nic brings up, it is a very difficult situation now that NATO faces because in a city like Sirte, which is Gadhafi's hometown where he does enjoy popularity among certain groups there and he has armed them in the town that the opposition forces went into today and had to flee from because of those armed civilians, what does the coalition do?
Will they bomb in their areas if they are in fact just armed civilians and not Gadhafi troops? How reliant at this point opposition forces is on the coalition, on NATO, to continue bombing in Sirte and other areas around there so they can continue to advance?
DAMON: They are very heavily reliant on that and they fully acknowledge the fact that they could not have come this far were it not for those -- for those airstrikes, but as we have heard many of the opposition leaders, the military leadership say there is one ground rule and that is that no bombings are to take place in civilian areas which is why it's -- and when this battle does move to this type of street-to-street fight that we could potentially be seeing, there's not going to be much room for those airstrikes to take place.
And that is where the opposition is going to have to figure out some sort of a military strategy, so that they can in fact if they do intend to defeat Gadhafi's military, defeat those other civilians who will be rising up to fight them. The big problem the opposition is going to face when it starts to have to fight the southern cities, is that it lacks the weapons, it lacks the experience and it lacks the military expertise.
This is not an overall disciplined unit. They do not understand or enforce the basics of a military operation. There's absolutely no command-and-control and there is no discipline -- Anderson.
COOPER: And Nic, very briefly, over the weekend, a very disturbing incident, a woman burst into the hotel where you and other journalists are staying, saying that she had been gang-raped by Gadhafi forces. She had wounds on her.
Explain what happened and what we've learned of what's happened to her since?
ROBERTSON: Well, this is a woman who was brave enough to try to tell her story to the international journalists here in the city. The only people who had been willing to listen to it. It's the first time we've seen somebody come forward who was willing to talk against the regime.
The regime here tries to stage manage pretty much everything we see to show us that everyone supports Moammar Gadhafi. This was the first time somebody was speaking out against them.
The government officials here moved against this woman, dragging her away, throwing a bag on her head, taking her away initially they said to a hospital, then she said -- then they said they were taking her to a police station. Then she said -- then government officials said she'd been released. But not before state media completely denigrated her by casting her, calling her a prostitute, trying to sort of -- essentially undermine what she was saying, negate her claims against the regime warriors (ph) here. But subsequently this evening we're seeing on Facebook and coming from the east of the country her family holding an engagement party with a man from her tribe. This is essentially the family saying that her honor is intact, her tribe saying that her honor is intact and her tribe saying to Gadhafi, we stand with Iman al-Obeidi, this lady, we stand against you, Moammar Gadhafi.
This is a very strong statement from her family and from the tribe. Rallying behind her to save this woman's honor -- Anderson.
COOPER: We're going to have a lot more about her on "360."
Tie us (INAUDIBLE) in Washington -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much.
Let's get reaction right now from John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona. He's the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. He was the Republican presidential nominee only two years ago.
Did this president, Senator McCain, meet the challenge that he's faced over these past several weeks successfully?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think that the first part of his speech I thought was excellent, and he laid out the reasons why it was important to intervene and what would have happened in Benghazi. And many of us that are convinced that if we had taken that action three weeks earlier, just declaring a no-fly zone, it would have had a similar effect. But the fact is, he made a strong case.
And then he got into the issue of American leadership and emphasis on how America was going to step down. But -- and he mentioned a couple of times that Gadhafi must step down. And then he made a very puzzling comment, and that was regime change by force would be a mistake.
Gadhafi must have been somewhat comforted by that. It was then at least to some degree a counter to the president's statement that Gadhafi must go. And if we end up in a situation where Gadhafi is able to cling to power, then we could easily see a reenactment of what happened after the first Gulf War, a stalemate, a no-fly zone, lasted for 10 years and didn't bring Saddam Hussein out of power.
Look, the reason why we wage wars is to achieve results of a policy that we state. The president's policy is Gadhafi must go. And I think there's every chance if we keep the pressure on, that Gadhafi will be thrown under the bus by his relatives or friends or others.
BLITZER: Well, that was clearly what the president is hoping for, that the Libyan people themselves will successfully get rid of Gadhafi. He suggested that, yes, the military mission that the U.N. and the NATO, the Arab League have authorized is limited to protecting civilians and the no-fly zone and all of that, but he said the U.S. goal still remains that Gadhafi must go, and non-military means, political means he said, will be used to try to achieve that goal. MCCAIN: First of all, he didn't say by -- when he said Gadhafi must go, you assume that whatever is necessary to achieve that policy goal. Second of all, it's clear that we are on the side of the rebels in this conflict. We're wiping out Gadhafi's armor and we have prevented them from having the advantage in the air. In fact, they stopped flying as soon as we declared the no-fly zone. So it's clear that we are acting on the battlefield on the side of the rebels, and that we can, by keeping up this sustained pressure and movement, that Gadhafi can be removed.
If we tell Gadhafi, don't worry, you're not going to be removed by force, I think that that's very encouraging to Gadhafi. And so, I believe that the rebels are, as I predicted, are succeeding because we negated the air power and the armor capabilities of Gadhafi, and we're rapidly on the road to success.
But to say we're not going to -- a regime change is not going to take place by force, I certainly can't agree with. He's a danger to the world. And the longer he stays in power, the more dangerous he becomes.
BLITZER: I think this little excerpt from the speech -- and I'll play this clip -- sort of underscore what I'm now calling the Obama doctrine on the use of force. He didn't want the U.S. to act alone. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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. That's the kind of leadership we have shown in Libya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, that's where he said that's the kind of leadership we've shown in Libya. Isn't the operation better off not just a unilateral U.S. operation, but the fact that France and Britain and the NATO alliance, even the Arab League, some members like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are on board?
MCCAIN: First of all, if it hadn't been for the French and the British, we may not have gone in under any circumstance. And I say I'm grateful for the secretary of state and her advocacy. But the point is, in the president's remarks, that what he really doesn't emphasize, that the United States leaves. And there are times when we have to act alone. There are many other times where we have the time and the luxury of assembling coalitions and acting together. And we always want to act in partnership.
When President Reagan attacked Tripoli, he didn't ask anybody, he didn't assemble a coalition. When we went into Panama to remove Noriega, we didn't assemble a coalition. And there are times when the United States has to have a coalition of people who are willing to join us. But America leads and America remains the leader of the world, and that means we're the greatest force for good.
BLITZER: Senator McCain, thanks very much for joining us.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Senator John McCain is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Wolf, we're going to take a quick break. When we come back, John King and General Wesley Clark are going to be here. We want to look very specifically at where the battle now stands and what the opposition forces need to be able to do where -- with the next town that they hope to hit in order to be able to move forward eventually, westward to Tripoli. More details ahead.
COOPER: This new video just released today, a Tomahawk missile being launched just yesterday. U.S. Defense Department released that. A hundred and 99 Tomahawks have so far been fired on Libya in the course of this whole operation, but the number has been drastically reducing just in the last 24 hour.
There've only been six Tomahawks that had been fired, a total of -- before that 192 have been fired by the United States and seven by other coalition forces mainly the British.
Let's go in to Washington and John King who's at the magic wall with General Wesley Clark, looking at where the military operation stands right now -- John.
KING: And Anderson, we'll look at where it is now, and I'll try to ask General Clark is with us -- General, thanks for being with us -- the question about where do we go going forward. You heard the president explain his policy, explaining that he wants regime change, but it's not the mandate of the military coalition.
If you look at the map here, the red is Gadhafi-controlled town. This is where we were the day before the coalition attacks started. And Gadhafi forces had come to the east, taken Ras Lanuf, taken al- Brega. Ajdabiya at that point was a bit uncertain. That's where we were then.
Then a few days in, you see a little bit started to change. This is where we are today. And the green being the opposition, they have taken back these key cities here. But as they go this way, Arwa Damon, you heard her on the ground saying as they head this way toward Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown, they're beginning to face resistance, what does the coalition do when the U.N. document, the resolution, says their mandate is to stop violence against civilians?
If civilians in these towns loyal to Gadhafi fire on the opposition forces, and the opposition fires back, what is the coalition's mandate? GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I think that you've got to step back for a second because I think the simple answer to that, the coalition mandate is to work the big picture. In other words, what the coalition will do is continue to go after the tanks and armored vehicles of that Gadhafi is using.
It will continue to look at Misrata. If it can do anything about Misrata. Then with respect to something like Sirte, when they -- when the rebels get to Sirte or the opposition gets to Sirte, they're going to have to talk to the people in Sirte. And this is about the whole concept of momentum. It's what kind of future the people of Sirte want. It doesn't have to be resolved by guns. They need to talk. Not shoot.
KING: Civil wars are often resolved by guns.
CLARK: They might be.
KING: If they cannot reach that dialogue, though, and civilians start shooting at the opposition, what does the coalition then do?
CLARK: The coalition --
KING: Its mandate is to stop the violence. Does it shoot on the opposition? If the opposition has picked up tanks, picked up rockets, picked military equipment from the Gadhafi forces that have abandoned the front of this end, if they are using them against civilians which are pro-Gadhafi, does the coalition have an obligation under U.N. Resolution 1973 to stop them?
CLARK: Well, I don't think they're going to do that. They've already pulled back --
KING: They don't --
CLARK: And they don't want to cross that line. I don't they want to cross that line. I think the -- I think the opposition is going to be very careful about this. Now what the opposition would like to see is, they'd like to see the coalition tighten the noose on Gadhafi. So let's say there's resistance in Sirte, fine. Well, they'll find a way to bypass and try to get to Misrata. They'll try to put their forces in a position where the coalition has to act against the bulk of Gadhafi's forces and let Sirte be handled by the sense of inevitability of the opposition victory.
KING: I want to bring something else down. You were the NATO supreme allied commander, when you look at a map like this, you have the operation centers that have been set up in Italy, set up here and there.
Are you now confident when the president says by Wednesday NATO takes this over, the United States steps back. Yes, it uses some capabilities to help and support. Are you now confident there is a command structure in place that will bring about an organized and coordinated military response within the mandated resolution and within the political debate, if you will, that has happened within NATO?
CLARK: You know I don't think that's an issue. I think that structure is already there. Its -- there is a linkage between the U.S. commands structure and the NATO command structure. And as the president said we'll continue to provide command and control and intelligence and other things.
We -- all of the backbone of this, and it's really about putting an allied chain of command through NATO so that you bring other political leadership in and others are -- have to take responsibility for the actions.
Yes, we'll still be engaged here and I'm not concerned about the technicalities of command and control. I am concerned about the issues you're raising. But again to go back to this, John, I think it's what the president said is, there's a certain line at which the military mission cuts off and above that, to get to the goals, you got to do other things.
It's about establishing momentum by the military mission, and then using international law, diplomacy, the isolation. The opposition says that down in here is where the mercenaries are coming through.
KING: Here we go.
CLARK: Right in here in the south. And so they would also like -- they'd like to see Gadhafi squeezed all the way around. I have heard stories of Algerian pilots and Syrian tank commanders. I can't verify this, but this is what you're hearing there. And so the purpose of the opposition supported by the coalition is to create a sense of inevitability that causes people to talk rather than fight.
KING: It's supported by the coalition part, and I think it's complicated as we start moving this way in parts of the country that tend to be more loyal to Gadhafi.
We'll continue this conversation a bit later in the program.
General Clark, thank you.
Back to Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much guys.
When we come back, our own Eliot Spitzer is going to be speaking with Fareed Zakaria. He's got some strong views on what we just heard from the president of the United States. And Anderson and I will check in with all of our reporters in the region.
Much more of our coverage on the president's address to the nation right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We knew that if we wanted -- 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 stain the conscience of the world. It was not in our national interest to let that happen.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Obama making the case, not just on moral grounds to intervene in Libya, but also on national interest grounds.
I'm joined by Eliot Spitzer.
Eliot, it was interesting to hear the president really try to define the mission in a way which I think may surprise some people that regime change is not part of this mission.
ELIOT SPITZER, CNN'S "IN THE ARENA": I think that in fact has been the inherent tension throughout this confrontation. Is the mission humanitarian or is the mission one of getting rid of Gadhafi, the president has said, Gadhafi must go. And then is it jarring for people to hear that that is not the military mission. You heard Senator McCain coming back to that fundamental point as well.
If that is our mission, let's accomplish it and declare success and then move on. That is not what we have done.
Anyway, let me bring in the always brilliant Fareed Zakaria, CNN's own analyst of all things international.
Fareed, this was in many respects a very subtle speech, and I think buried in it or maybe not so buried, there is the beginning of a doctrine about how President Obama views the use of force. How do you see this?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANALYST: Eliot, I agree entirely. It was actually an important speech. It was quite carefully and cleverly constructed. It had a humanitarian angle, it had a strategic angle, but at the heart of it, what Obama is saying is that there are places in the world where the United States does not have vital national interests, where we have not been attacked, but we have limited interests and we're going to try to find a way to have some kind of limited military response. We're going to do some of the things ourselves. We're going to insist that allies do other things. We're going to insist that we have an international mandate.
And so what he's suggesting is look, given the circumstances, the Libyan opposition asking for help on the verge of a massacre, the Arab league asking for it, the U.N. endorsing it, the United States could not have done nothing. But that does not mean that he's going to accept the idea that this is an open-ended commitment.
What John McCain was suggesting is frankly strikes me as a very dangerous argument, that in a place where we have clearly limited interests, clearly nonvital interests, the United States and the president should put an open-ended policy of military escalation and say we will do whatever it takes to get Moammar Gadhafi out of office. Well, that is frankly the way we got into conflicts like Vietnam, where in order not to be humiliated, we couldn't back down.
What Obama is saying is, we have limited interests, we have limited -- a limited military mission, and he intends to keep it limited. The reference to Iraq I think was very pointed and clear in that respect.
SPITZER: You know, Fareed, the distinction you're drawing was one that he made later on in the speech, between the core interests, where the United States would go in unilaterally with military force without hesitation, and then when he, in a way, in a more diminished context, he referred to merely as interests and values. And he said in those contexts, we will construct the international support group that we have here, the coalition that we have in Iraq.
Now, the subtlety there is important, but it also raises problems. I had a series of questions that I thought the president needed to answer tonight. The first one was why are we there? And I think I totally agree with you, he answered that brilliantly.
The second question, though, is how do you define success? And it's not so clear to me in contexts of the humanitarian purpose that he articulated for the military, how do you define success. And then the third question, when do you know you can leave? How do you define those boundary lines?
ZAKARIA: This is the treacherous part about any kind of limited military intervention. And what he will have to do, in my opinion, is find a definition of success that does not involve the achievement of some kind of Jeffersonian democracy in Libya, the elimination of Moammar Gadhafi and all his cronies. Because if you wait for that, and if you say we will continue to press forward and escalate until we reach that mission, that is precisely what causes -- you know, you get into a lot of trouble.
Now, it's fair to say that -- you can argue that we will continue to press the Libyan regime, but that doesn't mean that we have to keep ratcheting up the military option. The military is just one tool that we have to enforce this policy.
SPITZER: But, Fareed, here's the problem I have, and I think it is a subtle, very academic, slightly defensive speech perhaps, but as long as Gadhafi is in power, isn't the humanitarian threat going to continue for the Libyan population? And that is why it seems to me as long as Gadhafi is there, the military is going to say we can't leave because then there will be slaughter, there will be bloodshed. So how do you then separate out the humanitarian purpose from the stated but not the military purpose of getting rid of Gadhafi? And that is where I think there is a tension, and unfortunately even after this speech, significant confusion about how far we go and until when we stay.
ZAKARIA: Remember, Eliot, after the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, which were both regarded as successes, Slobodan Milosevic, the dictator of Serbia, was still in power. He survived both interventions. So again, the core here is to create some definition of success that allows you to say you have achieved some level of success, and press, continue to press.
The most important part about the speech, not the most important, but the newsmaking part about the speech, which frankly most people have missed, is the president of the United States said we are going to assist the Libyan opposition. On Sunday, Secretary Gates on "Meet the Press" said no decision has been made as to whether we will help the opposition. The president is now saying he will.
So in other words, there is a policy now to shift the balance of power and to assist those against Gadhafi in all kinds of ways. The air campaign is just one part of it. And we will continue to press him. Gadhafi has many resources, but if an international coalition stays firm, it is not that expensive to maintain the no-fly zone. If the Libyan opposition is helped, it will throw him and his cronies off kilter.
SPITZER: One certainly hopes that happens, one certainly hopes Gadhafi is gone in short order. If Gadhafi is not gone and we begin to pull back militarily, that is a very dicey political proposition for the president, to withdraw until we have gotten that moment of clear success, the elimination of Gadhafi. Anyway, Fareed, always fascinating to talk to you. Thank you.
And now back to Wolf in D.C.
BLITZER: Eliot, you're almost certainly right. I think most people realistically won't believe this is a success from the U.S. standpoint if Gadhafi remains in power in Tripoli.
Let's get some more reaction from Capitol Hill right now where our senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash is standing by. We'll go to Ed Henry in a moment as well.
But, Dana, first to you, what else -- what else are you hearing?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're hearing certainly from Republicans who supported the idea of a no-fly zone at the beginning but were concerned about the fact that the president hadn't defined the message and mission not satisfied, specifically House Speaker John Boehner. You remember, Wolf, that last week he kind of gave voice and specifics to the questions that many people here in Congress in both parties had, questions that they had. And I'll tell you that again, he is not satisfied. I'll read you a quote from his spokesman that we just got.
He said, "Unfortunately, Americans waited a long time to get few new answers. Whether it's the American resources that will be required, our standards and objectives for engaging the rebel opposition or how this action is consistent with U.S. policy goals, the speech failed to provide Americans much clarity to our involvement in Libya."
So there you have it. The House speaker saying that his questions weren't answered from the Republican side. Another thing is, you know, Wolf, before the speech, I spent some time walking around, talking to senators of both parties and what I heard especially from Democrats, and something we were just hearing from Eliot Spitzer and that is that they really wanted to hear what's the end game, what's the exit strategy. And that is something that we haven't heard from Democrats yet, but I certainly expect them to say that they didn't hear that from the president tonight and probably are not happy about it, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, thanks very much. You can have your hands full later this week as there's going to be a lot of testimony from administration officials on Capitol Hill. Presumably they'll have some more answers to these questions.
Ed Henry is our senior White House correspondent. He's still over there at Fort McNair at the National Defense University.
I believe the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the chairman of the joint chiefs, they're going to have closed door briefings from members of Congress tomorrow and then formal open door hearings on Wednesday. That's the next step in this process of letting Congress know what the U.S. strategy is. Is that right, Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They're going to go to Capitol Hill to continue to make that case and part of what they're going to be talking about, interesting that you really put your finger on it Wolf at the top of this hour, which is the president really for the first time in nearly 2 1/2 years in office laying out which you might call an Obama doctrine, at one point when he said I refuse to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action. And then adding that he would be not -- he would not be afraid to use military action swiftly, decisively and unilaterally when necessary. That last word, unilaterally, for someone who was an anti-war candidate now laying it out that starkly. The question ahead is going to be whether he can follow up on it. What if violence continues in Syria? What about Darfur, other parts of the world where now the U.S. maybe pressured to act even before this speech?
I can tell you White House aides were asked is there a Libya precedent now? They said no. They're going to take these on a case- by-case basis, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of people are dying in the Ivory Coast and Congo and elsewhere in Africa.
BLITZER: What's going to be the moral structure of U.S. helping out there? These are questions that remain to be answered. Ed, thanks very much.
Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Yes, the president tried to explain also tonight that the cost of this in terms of the U.S. involvement is going to go down dramatically as the operation is handed over to NATO. When we come back, we're going to go to Pentagon and take a look at the actual cost of this battle so far. We'll also check in with our correspondents in Egypt and Cairo and in Abu Dhabi. We'll be right back.
COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing live coverage of President Obama's remarks on Libya. I want to bring in our correspondents, Ivan Watson, who is in Cairo tonight, Cairo, Egypt. And also Mohammed Jamjoom who is in Abu Dhabi.
Ivan, one of the things that this president tried to make clear tonight is what strategic interests or national interests the United States had in getting involved militarily in Libya. And one of the things he cited out of the three main national interests was concern about large numbers of refugees leaving Egypt. There are some one million Egyptian workers who've been working in Libya for years now leaving Libya and going back into Egypt and that destabilizing this fragile revolution that's occurred in Egypt, same thing in Tunisia. What kind of an impact would that have had in Egypt if all those workers had returned?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we already saw some of the impact, not only Egypt but also on Libya's western border, Anderson, with Tunisia with floods of 15,000 people a day streaming across the border and that was weighing heavily on the economy, on the local community there, putting serious strains on society, not only here in Egypt, but also in Tunisia. And it was very interesting that the president used this argument partly to help defend the intervention in Libya, saying that we have to protect what he described as inspiring uprisings in the eastern countries, these revolutions from the spillover, potential spillover effect which we were definitely starting to see in the first weeks of this conflict in Libya.
These two countries, both Egypt and Tunisia are in very fragile states right now. They're going to unchartered territory right now, Anderson, and their economies have been battered in recent months. The last thing either of these countries would need as they're doing the very hard work now of trying to create new democratic systems out of the ashes of dictatorships, the worst thing they would have to deal with is major refugee exits on their borders.
COOPER: Ivan, it's obviously a fragile situation in Egypt right now. The military is in control. What's the latest in terms of the move toward democracy, the move toward having elections and what I hear is a growing power of the Muslim Brotherhood?
WATSON: Well, the Egyptian military, a ruling military council is now in charge of this country and just today it made an announcement of a new system of laws for registering political parties. It said that it's planning to try to hold parliamentary elections in September, presidential elections sometime after that. It declared that parties could be registered, but they would be banned if they tried to form themselves on religious, sectarian or geographic basis and that may have potentially repercussions on some of the Islamist movements, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood which is perhaps one of the best organized political movements in this country after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. And that movement in itself has been resoling with how to define itself right now in the weeks and months ahead.
Anderson, Egypt's saw a little bit more than a week ago a historic referendum on constitutional reform. More than 18 million people who participated in that vote reform package was overwhelmingly passed, but there are some serious concerns, particularly among some of the secular revolutionaries, the young people that we saw in Tahrir Square that some of the religious movements, some of the religious leaders were lobbying in favor of the referendum using the mosques as a pulpit to do that, Anderson, and that was raising some serious concerns about where these Muslim parties are going forward, how powerful they are in the wake of Mubarak's overthrow here on the political scene which has completely transformed here in Egypt.
COOPER: And because the elections, presidential elections would be sooner than some of the more secular parties, those young people who were involved in the revolutions wanted in order to try to beef up democratic institutions, the concern on their part I believe was that quicker elections would benefit more organized groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
I want to bring in Mohammed Jamjoom who's in Abu Dhabi but has been monitoring the situations in both Yemen and in Syria, Mohammed, let's start off with Syria. A government crackdown sending military troops onto the streets in a number of towns, what kind of an impact has that had?
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this has really roiled the government of Syria. They have not known how to deal with it. It's had a huge impact there. We've seen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad come out with concessions. Spokeswoman for the information ministry there has said that the emergency law that's so hated by the protesters there will be lifted. She hasn't specified when that will be but it will be lifted. That seems to be a major concession to the protesters out there.
What started out as a protest movement that was localized with people in the south of the country in the city of Daraa are asking for reforms, for economic incentives has really grown, has really coalesced into a movement in which people have come out because of crackdowns that they've seen against these people in Daraa. And now it's grown into more of a movement of people asking for regime change. Because the government is now saying they will implement reforms, the people there are seeing what kind of power they have. And the demonstrators and the eyewitnesses that we speak to on the streets there say they don't care about the violence they may face in the days ahead because Syria is known to be an authoritarian regime. They say they're going to keep coming out into the streets demanding their right. They say that what the government is offering right now is too little, too late -- Anderson.
COOPER: Mohammed Jamjoom reporting to us tonight from Abu Dhabi. And, Mohammed, thanks very much. Ivan Watson as well from Cairo. We'll have a lot more on the latest from Syria tonight on "AC 360" at 10:00.
I talked to a man, a human rights worker who's really risking his life to tell us the latest what he is seeing in the hospitals and on the streets and a number of towns in Syria. That's tonight at 10:00. Let's go back to Wolf right now down in D.C. -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Look forward to it, Anderson. Thanks very much.
Let's go over to the Pentagon right now and talk about the costs of this war. It's only been a few days, Chris Lawrence is our Pentagon correspondent. Already well into the hundreds of millions of dollars for U.S. taxpayers, Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're right, Wolf. I mean, you break it down, they fire now close to 200 tomahawk missiles. The cost of that alone is somewhere between $250 million and $300 million. By some estimates, it costs about $10,000 an hour to keep a fighter jet in the air.
Wolf, the sorties their flying can go five to six hours at a time sometimes. And the U.S. has flown nearly 1,000 of these sorties.
Now all that said, at some point you degrade Gadhafi's forces enough that you sort of run out of targets. And the U.S. can sort of take from Peter to pay Paul using money from later in the Pentagon's budget, later in the year to cover the costs now. But there are some costs. The combat pay for some of the troops, the cost of all that fuel that's being used on these planes, that's got to be paid now. Some people have estimated the cost of this could come up to $1 billion. And that's why senators like Richard Lugar has said there needed to be an accounting of some of these costs before the mission was launched, Wolf.
BLITZER: The president made a point of saying that the 33 billion -- he said $33 billion in frozen Libyan assets in the United States, in his words, that this money does not belong to Gadhafi or to us, it belongs to the Libyan people. We will make sure they receive it. This notion that perhaps some of the costs of this war would come from using some of that $33 billion. The president here seems to suggest no way, it's going back to Libya, not going to be going back to the -- at least some of it to the American taxpayer to pay for this war.
LAWRENCE: Yes. Wolf, I mean, even if he did make that argument, it's an argument we heard back in the Iraq war, that Iraq's oil would help pay for some of the Iraq war, you know, that didn't really pan out either. So take it for what it's worth.
BLITZER: In the end, it's going to be Uncle Sam.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. When we come back, the politics of all of this. Did the president achieve what he wanted to do, convince the American public that what he has announced and is doing in Libya is the right thing? Stand by. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 refuse to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Obama explaining the mission and the goals of that mission about an hour ago tonight in Washington, D.C. I'm joined by David Gergen, Gloria Borger and Jessica Yellin.
David, did the president do what he need to and specifically I'm interested in your thoughts on him very clearly saying that they are not attempting to get rid of Gadhafi by military means.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He was very clear on that, Anderson. Three quick points, one, the president came in to this with less than half the country thinking he made the right decision. Just in plurality, thinking that there's been universal views tonight on this program that he did very well on explaining why we went in. I think he helped himself on that.
Where you go from here, how do you get this done, it was still murky. And I do not think, and people were unclear about his goals. I think they're going to be still unclear about how this is going to unfold what he's actually trying to achieve.
The last point, and that is what Wolf has been calling the emerging Obama doctrine. On that, I thought the president made it very clear that unless we are directly threatened, he's only going to use force in extremely limited circumstances. Horrific violence, a broad coalition, a U.N. mandate, calls from the Arabs, the capacity to get it all done. All of that seemed to me to suggest he's not going into Syria, he's not going into Bahrain, he's not going into a lot of these other places. That is a cautious use of power. It's a far, far cry from what stirred American hearts back in the early 1960s when John Kennedy declared we'll pay any price, you know, bear any burden in defense of liberty. This is much more cautious but in a war of weary America, it may go down pretty well.
COOPER: Gloria, we already heard from John McCain on Capitol Hill, taking issue with what the president said about trying to get rid of Gadhafi just purely through nonmilitary means?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, we did and I think what's interesting about what David is saying is that the president said when our national interests and our values are threatened, we're going to intervene in some way, even when we are not directly threatened. And so there's this question, and the White House has been asked it over and over and over again, which is does this set a precedent? And tonight, I think the president was very cogent and very convincing, but he really didn't answer the question about, well, what about the humanitarian needs in Syria? What about the humanitarian issues in Bahrain? Aren't they of more strategic interests or Yemen to the United States in a way? So, you know, I think this president left a lot open that needs to be answered. And maybe, Anderson, when you're not in the driver's seat, when you're part of a coalition, there's a certain kind of ambiguity that we have to learn to accept that we haven't accepted before when we were unilaterally intervening.
COOPER: Jessica, we've already heard before the last several days for many critics on the Republican side from Capitol Hill. How do you think this speech is going to play?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the speech had a lot of nuance in it, you know, or interests. We didn't have -- we weren't directly threatened, but our interests were at stake. We did what we said we're going to do, but we still have more to do. And that kind of nuance allows the Republican critics to continue their argument that the president hasn't been clear. But the real question here, Anderson, are where are the independents because that's who's swinging here, their ambivalent 44 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove, and they're not necessarily hearing a more persuasive argument from Republicans who are very divided in their criticism. Some of the 2012 possibly contenders are saying things like, well, I was for a no-fly zone, but not this way. We believe in American exceptionalism and stand up for freedom and democracy, but not at too high a cost. So because they don't have a necessarily unified argument either, the president has the belief and hope that he gave a persuasive speech and if things continue to go well for him, right now the rebels seem to be making progress and thanking Americans, then the president politically can come out ahead. It really depends on events on the ground, Anderson.
COOPER: And, David, very quickly, event on the ground are kind of unclear now. The rebels have, or the opposition forces have kind of stopped outside Sirte where civilians have apparently been armed by the Gadhafi regime is not clear what the U.S. would do in a in a case where there are armed civilians who are willing to fight against the opposition forces.
GERGEN: Not clear, the president will do fine as long as Gadhafi looks like he's leaving. If he hangs in there for six months, things are going to politically going to get rough for the president.
COOPER: All right. David Gergen, Jessica Yellin, Gloria Borger, thanks very much. Let's go back to Wolf in D.C. -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know Anderson, you have a lot more in one hour on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." We'll be watching that.
John King is here. When all is said and done, though, if Gadhafi remains in power, even if he's in Tripoli and just around that capital, the president of the United States is not going to be able to declare victory in Libya.
KING: He won't be able to declare victory in Libya. He won't be able to declare that his stated goal that Gadhafi must go has been met. But if he is trapped in Tripoli, the rest of the country is in opposition, largely in opposition control and there are negotiations, then the president can at least claim a stalemate that did not lead to continued humanitarian crisis.
I think General Clark made a key point earlier. David Gergen just reinforced it. What happens here? What happens here? Can the United States in its private consultations with the opposition say do not get involved in hand to hand street combat? Avoid that. Don't force the coalition's hands because if the opposition is fighting with civilians, does the coalition have to intervene to stop? Don't force that. Then the question is how does the president carry this forward.
You mentioned Iran. Syria is unfolding, Bahrain. The sketch of the Obama doctrine we got tonight, we e didn't get a full pamphlet. We got a sketch of an Obama doctrine. It will be tested by events in a very volatile region.
BLITZER: And it's amazing how this whole North Africa and the Middle East, the president of the United States certainly did not anticipate only a few months ago that this whole region would be exploding right now in ways that very few of us could have envisioned.
KING: It is remarkable. And that's why the president, there's not a one size fit all solution. You see violence here in Syria, of all places. The Syrian government shooting its own people. What does the president do if this continues? You have seen more violence over the weekend in Yemen. A traditional U.S. ally in the war against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. What happens there? So the president trying to give a broad outline today. If you're for freedom, we'll be with you, but a case-by-case basis.
BLITZER: It's amazing what's going on and I've covered this region for a long time. Someone would have said to me only a few months ago, you know what, we're going to see in Yemen and Bahrain and Syria, in North Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, all these things unfolding. And it's only just the beginning I suspect in the next few weeks and months. Hold your thought.
Yes, this is really going to get going pretty crazy. John, thanks very much. Much more of our coverage continuing right now on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT."