On the afternoon of March 15 last year,President Obama and top advisors sat in the White HouseSituation Room poring over grainy satellite photos of an armored column thundering down on a largely unprotected Libyan city. Their choices appeared to be stark: Plunge the United States into a new war in the Arab world, or risk the slaughter of thousands.
Obama decided to split the difference — committing the American military for part of the job. That decision has come to exemplify the Obama doctrine: Because Libyan leaderMoammar Kadafi's assault on insurgents and civilians didn't directly endanger U.S. security, there was no justification for a major U.S.-led ground assault, the president decided. But, he said, the U.S. could take a role in protecting civilians if allies shared the burden, regional and international groups blessed the effort, and the mission was limited.