Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonoughBy USGOV
Monday, March 28, 2011
11:36 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for coming to this morning’s gaggle. I just want to clarify that this is pen and pad only. It is not for broadcast of any kind. And with that, as you know, I have with me today Denis McDonough, the President’s deputy national security advisor.
Neither Denis nor I is here to preview the President’s speech. We are here to — Denis can talk to you about the questions you have about — substantive questions about Libya, what’s happening there or other issues, but we’re not going to get ahead of the President in terms of the — what he will actually say in the speech.
So with that, why don't we get started?
Q Are you going to start?
MR. CARNEY: Ben.
Q Okay, well. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: We can end it now if you like, or move on to other issues. (Laughter.)
Q We have a Denis McDonough sighting. It’s good to see you. I will make a run at something here. Can we — even in a broad sense, can we expect the President to talk about the Libya conflict in the context of the broader Middle East and other aspects of what’s happening in this volatile region, or is this a Libya speech?
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, Ben, it’s nice to see you, and thanks for the opportunity to speak with all of you this morning.
I’m going to follow the guidance of my colleague Jay and not get into the contents of the speech today. Obviously, that will — the President will lay that down tonight. And you’ve heard him talk about it generally. You heard Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton talk about our case yesterday, and they surely put it in the context of the region and what’s happening in the region.
Q So going forward, once the U.S. has fully pulled back to this support role and the civilian protection and no-fly, how many ships, planes and service members will we have — approximately will we have committed to this effort?
MR. McDONOUGH: I didn't understand the full — I think like the fourth or fifth word you said when we pull back to this what?
MR. McDONOUGH: Oh, okay.
Q That's the word you guys have been using, right?
MR. McDONOUGH: I just didn't understand –
Q So when you guys pull back to the support effort, how many ships, planes and servicemembers will you have committed to this?
MR. McDONOUGH: I don't have a specific number for you, Jake, but –
Q Do you have a rough number, an idea?
MR. McDONOUGH: I’m sure the Joint Staff does, but I don't have that for you right now.
Q Tomorrow they’ll be convening a high-level conference in London to talk about the Libya situation going forward. And Secretary Clinton already mentioned that there will be — as a post-Qaddafi era. Do you see this conference providing any kind of a way out for Qaddafi, a way, a sort of final “this is your last chance to leave quietly or else” kind of situation? Or is it not going to get quite that specific?
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, we’re obviously very gratified that the U.K. is going to be leading the conference. And Secretary Clinton will obviously be participating as our representative. We do think it’s very important to spell out an end-state, a vision of where this goes. And it’s also very important that we have the opportunity to work that jointly with our allies and with all the countries — all of our partner countries. So you’ll see a big Arab League presence, as we understand it. And obviously, as the Secretary indicated over the weekend, that you’ll see a presence of Libyan opposition, as well.
So we — I’m not going to get ahead of the conference because it is a U.K.-led effort. But we do expect that there will be some amplification of the political end-state. And what the Libyan people can expect, which, as the President has made clear throughout this effort, that the bottom line here is that they need to have a greater say in their own future — something that they have not had for 41 years.
Q And on Syria, the situation continues to deteriorate there. The Syrian forces have been firing on protestors again today. Can you give us a sense of — is there any sense within this administration that — of taking acting against Syria, similar to what’s being taken by a coalition against Qaddafi of Libya? And where do you see the whole situation heading?
MR. MCDONOUGH: Well, I’m not sure what you mean by “similar” — the similar sets of actions, Matt, but –
Q Military action.
MR. MCDONOUGH: There has not been any discussion of that. What we have made clear through various channels is that we expect the Syrian government to respect the rights of Syrians to peacefully protest; that they — as we’ve made clear across the region, that Syrians have every right to expect that their certain universal aspirations and values be respected, and we’ll continue to communicate that to the Syrian government and to others.
Q I noticed the French President and the British Prime Minister put out a joint statement on Libya, and why wasn’t President Obama part of that?
MR. CARNEY: I’d have to see the joint statement. I don’t know, Dan.
Q Hi, Denis. Can you — now that you’ve set the precedent in Libya, are you guys worried at all that now since we went into Libya that other countries and people — other countries in the Arab region, including Syria or Bahrain or other places that blew up, are going to expect American intervention? I mean, are you worried at all about the Libya precedent?
MR. MCDONOUGH: Hi, Helene, it’s nice to see you, too.
Q What about the rest of us? What about us?
MR. MCDONOUGH: Well, you didn’t start your question by saying, “Hi, Denis.” (Laughter.) Just trying to keep it real here. (Laughter.)
Q Hi, Denis.
MR. MCDONOUGH: Hi, Dan. (Laughter.) You know, we don’t — I think it’s very important that we see each of these instances, as the President has said since the beginning in the region, as unique; that obviously there are certain aspirations that are being voiced by each of these movements. But there’s no question that each of them is unique nationally, that each of them, frankly, is nationally motivated; it’s not an international thing by any means.
So we don’t get very hung up on this question of precedent. What we do — because we don’t make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent. We make them based on how we can best advance our interests in the region. And I think you heard Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates spell that out yesterday.
So do we worry about what’s happening in the region? We worry about it an awful lot. Do we worry about setting some false set of precedent? We don’t, because we’ve been very clearly communicating why we’re doing certain things in certain instances and not in others, and we’ll continue to do that.
Mostly, however, we’ll continue to respect the fact that each of these movements is a national and unique reaction to certain developments in their countries, and we’ll try to do our best to make sure that we recognize that, as we have kind of since the beginning of this effort.
Q But you’ve sort of — with the Libya case, you’ve sort of made the argument that civilians were in danger and there was a responsibility to protect. I mean, if that becomes the case in Syria, is that –
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, I think we’ve made the case — we’ve made the argument that each is very unique. And I think you’ve heard Ben and Tom and Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton and others spell out exactly why we believe Libya was unique. And insofar as we believe it’s unique, we believe it doesn’t set a precedent that should create any expectations in that regard.
Q Very nice to see you, Denis.
MR. McDONOUGH: Nice to see you, Mara. (Laughter.)
Q Two questions. One, you said it’s important to spell out the end-state. Could you describe the end-state that you want to see?
MR. McDONOUGH: I think you’ll hear more and more about that from Secretary Clinton in the course of the next couple days, so I’m not going to beat to that.
Q You don't — do you know what the end-state is that you want to see?
MR. McDONOUGH: We do, yes. We’ve been working on –
Q You just don't want to talk about it?
MR. McDONOUGH: No, I want to make sure that my bosses have the opportunity to talk about it.
Q Okay. The second question about precedent, just to follow on Helene. In the Saturday radio address, the President said that if we didn't do this, other dictators would be emboldened to use force against their own people. Isn’t that by definition the idea of a precedent; that you’re doing this to prevent other dictators from doing the same thing? Doesn’t that suggest that if they do it, they’re going to get the same response?
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, I think that, again, to take it back to where — what I was saying to Helene — the fact is that each of these instances is unique, and I could spell out each of the Libya examples which makes it unique: the fact that we had very unsettling and insightful language — inciting language from the government, to include that he would use no mercy, or that he would go door to door and find people in their closets; his history — threatening the King of Saudi Arabia; being behind an attack on American citizens, as has been very well spelled out in Pan Am 103; the fact that we had indications of the planning around the use of such violence against individuals.
All of those speak to the unique developments in Libya, and the reason why the President thought it was so important to send a very clear signal that in the event that — as we did, for example, in the run-up to the elections in Sudan, making clear that the Sudanese leadership understands, as it relates to Darfur and otherwise, that we continue to watch developments, that we continue to be on top of them, and that the international community will hold leaders to account if they don't live up to their expectations.
Does that mean that every time we have to lead an international coalition to intervene militarily? Absolutely not. But –
Q But he seemed to describe this as a kind of deterrent or even a precedent –
MR. McDONOUGH: There’s a lot of ways to –
Q — where he says that if we didn't do this –
MR. McDONOUGH: I think there’s a lot — I think what the President is referring to, Mara, is that there is a lot of ways to deter the kind of hateful actions that we’ve seen too often over the course of time.
That could mean, obviously, increasing the amount of time and attention we focus on these issues, making sure that people are understanding that we’re accumulating reporting as it relates to the mistreatment of individuals. And we’ve done that in Sudan. We did that in Libya. We continue to make that case as it relates, for example, in the Libya case, by having the ICC referral in the first resolution out of the Security Council.
So, again, the idea that since we intervened — since we had led an international coalition to shape the environment for an intervention in Libya means that we have to intervene everywhere else just belies the fact that we don't intervene based on precedent or based on a certain set of consistency guidelines but rather so that we can advance our interests. And each of those interests is going to be unique in each instance.
Q Denis, you said you won’t address the substance of tonight’s speech. How about the procedure? Why is this not in the Oval Office? Why is it at NDU?
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, I think it’s very important to go down to NDU, which is a place where we have mid-career officers from each of the services who are currently serving or who have — many of them just come back from tours overseas. But if you just line it up, Chip, about what our military is doing right now — undertaking an enormous effort in Japan to support our Japanese allies in this moment of great trial; continuing the effort in Afghanistan to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for al Qaeda; winding down our effort in Iraq so as to ensure the hand-over at the end of this — at the end of next year, so that we are in a position to shape the environment using our unique assets and capabilities in Libya so that we can hand off to our allies.
Q So he’ll be addressing all –
MR. McDONOUGH: So he wants to send a very clear signal to the folks there to that regard. But as it relates to whether it should be in the Oval or somewhere else, I think that that's probably better addressed to somebody else.
Q Will he be addressing all those issues tonight that you just went through?
MR. McDONOUGH: I’ll let the speech speak for itself later on.
Q Well, what about the argument that has been widely reported, or at least commentated that he’s doing it to downplay the importance of the Libya operation — that's why he’s not in the Oval Office.
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, you know, we’ve had meetings every day with the President, and the President is meeting every day either telephonically, in person — including over the weekend — with the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Vice President, General Ham, Secretary of State and his National Security Advisor because of the importance he attaches to it. The fact is that he attaches great importance to it. And as I think each of you has heard him say, no issue weighs more heavily on him and he attaches no greater importance to any issue than the decision to send our men and women in uniform into conflict.
Q Denis, is our part of the heavy lifting basically done now in Libya?
MR. McDONOUGH: I think that we feel great — I think the President feels great pride in the good work of our Marines, soldiers, airmen, sailors because of the remarkable and successful work that they’ve done in turning back, as he said in the speech — or in the address on Saturday, in turning back the potential onslaught in Benghazi, Ajdabiya, and other places. So I think he feels very proud of their work.
I don't know if you want to characterize it as heavy lifting or whether the important support missions that the President referred to going forward, I think those are — ultimately come at a big sacrifice with our troops deployed overseas and doing things away from their families. So I think that's all — I always consider each of those deployments for our guys to be a heavy lift because they are taking time away from their family and doing things that are — that the President is calling on them to do.
So I don't want to get into the business of characterizing which is heavy and which is light, but I do know that he’s very proud of the work that they’ve done.
Q Can this be called a “Mission Accomplished” moment?
MR. McDONOUGH: I think we’ll — the President in his address on Saturday laid out what he thinks about what’s happened so far, and I think he’ll discuss that more tonight.
Q Denis, two things. One, I want to follow up on Helene’s question. The President on — I believe it was on Tuesday in El Salvador said one of the justifications for doing this in Libya had to do with the fragile status of Tunisia and Egypt. So this is a case — I mean you’ve been making this argument, each — everything is unique, and yet this was a case where he felt one of the justifications has to do with what’s going on in the region. So can you square that with a Syria, with a Bahrain, with a Yemen?
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, I’d have to go back and look at the specific comment in El Salvador, Chuck. But I think the reference there is to the fact that both Tunisia and Egypt, which I’ve — Tunisia being the first, Egypt being kind of the center of gravity for the region and historically a real bellwether and leader for the region — are going through important transitions. And I think that insofar as you saw a humanitarian crisis engulf Libya and lead to a mass exodus of people, either to Tunisia or to Egypt, I think that what he is referring to there is the fact that that would not be in our interests, particularly at this time of delicate transition.
Q But looking to Syria, Syria is — while Egypt culturally the center of the Arab world, Syria has been at the center of pretty much every Middle East conflict this country has ever dealt with.
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, again, Syria is an important country, and I think I’ve said — I think I’ve made our case on that one, Chuck. I mean, we’re going to continue to make clear to the government that they ought to respect and — respect the Syrian people’s ability to peacefully protest, peacefully speak their minds. And insofar as you want me to try to approach this as if what we’re going to do in one country works exactly the same way in another country, I’m just not going to go there because that's not how we operate.
Q And then do you have an estimate on cost? Do you feel as if you’re going to need –
MR. McDONOUGH: I don't have an estimate on that, but I think that's being worked.
Q And comfort level with the Libyan opposition — has it grown over the last — because you were very careful early on not to — almost as if to say, it’s not necessarily that America is taking sides, but it’s trying to clear — trying to create a fair fight, I guess.
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, I think what we’re trying to do, as I indicated earlier, that we’re — rather than get into a characterization of the Libyan opposition, because I think that's quite a broad movement of people. You had the people — shopkeepers and others — and even in Tripoli, those first several days who were protesting and saying that the mistreatment that they’d been under for so long was — needed to end. I think they’re part of the opposition. I think those people in Misurata right now who are pinned down by government forces are part of the opposition.
So I think it’s not just the forces that are carrying out this effort as they head back west from Benghazi. It’s not just those individuals, but I think it’s individuals that we saw in those first several days — shopkeepers, students and others. And there’s no question that they have every right to be heard on this.
Q Denis, can I take another shot since you didn’t answer my –
MR. McDONOUGH: I don’t know what the rules are, Jake, in terms of –
MR. CARNEY: Let me get a few more because we’re going to — I don’t want Denis to have to stay here too long. So why don’t we — Laura.
MR. McDONOUGH: Hi, Laura.
Q Hi. What is your assessment of the situation on the ground in Libya right now? And could you speak — including the weekend events. And could you speak to the timing of the speech today, why this is the right moment for the President to be addressing the nation on this?
MR. McDONOUGH: I think the — I’ve been very impressed by the reporting from many of your colleagues, which I think has been intrepid and I think it’s — they’ve given us as good an understanding of what’s going on the ground any given day. And I think if you look kind of across the region and the great risk that many of your colleagues are taking to report for the American people, I think it’s very admirable — not only admirable, but I think very accurate. And so much of the reporting we see reflects a lot of what we’re seeing in other sources.
So I think my assessment is not going to be much different than yours, Laura, which is that the opposition is — has regained some momentum; that that momentum is feeding some sense of opposition — or some sense of momentum throughout the country, not just in the east.
And that as it relates to timing, I think that the President has been — has talked to many of you about it, and each of you has talked with others about in the administration — has been talking to the American people about this since that Friday afternoon, and talking to Congress about it, really, since a couple of weeks before that when we had a kind of regular series of interactions and briefings and hearings and otherwise on this important issue. But I think he just thinks that given that we are approaching the moment that he indicated would be days not weeks whereby we would begin to transition to our allied lead, he thinks that would make sense to do that now.
Q But why does it make it sense to address the people at the moment when we’re transitioning as opposed to at the moment when we’re getting into it? I mean, why is this the — is it sort of a –
MR. MCDONOUGH: Well, I disagree a little bit with the premise of the question because he did address the issue when we were getting into it.
Q Well, not in the same length, certainly.
MR. MCDONOUGH: Well, I mean, he gave a very good — very complete set of remarks on that Friday, which obviously was preceded by a very good meeting with the bipartisan, bicameral leadership down in the Sit Room, another one of those which he did last Friday. Intermittent — or in between there, we obviously had a series of interactions on the staff and member level on that. So we’ve been engaged with the American people on this throughout and we think this is another good opportunity to do that.
MR. CARNEY: Why don’t we just do two more. Peter and then April.
Q Denis, the Egyptian news agency is quoting the Arab League, as you may know, as saying that it would like to see a stop to the military operations to clear the way for some sort of a political solution. Do you have — what would your reaction be to that? And is this any indication of sort of a split from the portrayal that the President has been offering that the Arab Leagues is on board, too?
MR. McDONOUGH: Well, I think the Arab League will be present, members and other — members and Arab League functionaries will be present tomorrow in London, so they’ll have an opportunity to discuss it there.
Q If I could just jump in real quick on terms of a transition to — Denis, if — Denis McDonough — if I could just make this transition. When you talk about the transition, going forward do you see the U.S. playing anything — once the transition is complete, anything other than a supporting role? Or is it once we’ve crossed over into supporting role, are we in a supporting role for — and just in Libya, keeping it Libya specific?
MR. MCDONOUGH: I mean, I think the — I think as Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates talked about yesterday that we — we’ve been working very closely with our allies and with our partners; been intense — intense planning being done over at the North Atlantic Council to ensure that our — the alliance can take over each of these functions. And so obviously we’ll continue to support that, but we don’t see anything beyond that.
MR. CARNEY: And April, you’re last for Denis. And I’ll stay and take questions on other issues or similar issues, but I want to let Denis get back to work.
Q Good morning.
MR. MCDONOUGH: Hello, April.
Q How are you? All right, with this military action in Libya, how is the administration looking at reshaping or continuing, even, its message to the Muslim world? You had Iraq, you have Afghanistan, and now Libya. And then also, prior to the military action and Libya, how often did President Obama talk with his commander at AFRICOM, then Commander Kip Ward? Because we know he talks to Petraeus and other commanders, but how often did he keep in touch with AFRICOM, especially knowing the buildup — potential buildup into Libya?
MR. MCDONOUGH: I’m forgetting first question, April.
Q The first question is the Muslim message.
MR. MCDONOUGH: Oh, right. Well, the message continues to be the same, which is that I think if — as you look at this, the — obviously the Arab League and the Gulf countries strongly endorse the idea of a no-fly zone expressly because I think they were worried about the potential threat to Muslims in Libya as a result of the actions of the government.
We, obviously, continue to express the same kind of messaging that we have kind of throughout this, basically since the Cairo speech, but also throughout this effort and this series of reform and changes in the region, which is that there are certain aspirations which are universal. And people, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, ought to have the opportunity to express them. And we’ll continue to underscore that as we have here and abroad going forward.
As it relates to AFRICOM, the President — I guess I could probably try to find a calendar, April, of expressly when he met with him. But, for example, before we had these series of daily briefings that the President has been having with his team, he had had dinner earlier in the week with his combatant commanders, and General Ward and General Ham were both there, the outgoing and incoming from AFRICOM. And then of course around Sudan, the planning for the referendum contingency planning there for, the President was in touch with AFRICOM and its leadership.
Q When was this dinner?
MR. McDONOUGH: He has an annual dinner here at the White House with the combatant commanders.
Q Can I follow up on April just real quick –
Q Let me finish –
MR. McDONOUGH: So oftentimes — so the President has regular interactions with his team, but then many of the interactions are then incident-specific or issue-specific. So, for example, he does have the monthly SVTCs with General Petraeus, General Mattis, and others, as it relates to Afghanistan.
Q On Libya — just real quick on the message to the Muslim world and the universal aspirations, because the message has been very similar to Syria and Jordan and Bahrain and Yemen, and yet your Nowruz message to Iran was really quite different. It was very specific. You mentioned names. You were very condemnatory. And then when you went on to speak to the youth, you came sort of this close to saying that if they rose up, you would support them. That's quite different from what you’re saying to the rest of the world.
MR. McDONOUGH: I’m going to let the President’s Nowruz message speak for itself. It’s become an annual effort here where the President communicates with the Iranians and others who are celebrating Nowruz, and so I think I'll let the message speak for itself.
MR. CARNEY: Thanks, Denis. So I’m here for more questions. We don't want this to go on for too long. But, Jake, yes.
Q There was a report out of West Point in 2007 about the people going through Syria to get into Iraq to fight U.S. troops, and that report had about a fifth of those going in to fight U.S. troops from Libya. There was also a Libyan opposition group that was affiliated with al Qaeda. And my question is, how concerned is the administration about the possible presence within this broad group of Libyan opposition figures that there are those who fought jihad against the United States in Iraq, or are affiliated with al Qaeda or affiliated groups?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Jake, what I'll say is that we have obviously spent a lot of time looking at the opposition in Libya and speaking with opposition leaders. Denis spoke a little bit about that just moments ago. I don't have anything for you on a specific concern. But what we have seen in Libya is something that's national and organic, where, as we’ve seen in other countries, the people of Libya have expressed their desire for greater participation, greater voice in their government, more representation.
But beyond that, I don't have anything specific on elements of the opposition that would be of concern.
Q How confident is the President that whatever comes next after regime change happens, assuming it does, which is the stated policy of this White House, that it will be better for the United States and in our interests — that government?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'll share Denis’ opinion that I don't want to get ahead of the Secretary of State, who, as I think you noted, will be addressing this issue to some degree in London tomorrow.
But I will say that in general, this is obviously a situation in the region where there is a lot of unpredictability. But the President believes strongly that it is — serves the U.S. national interest and national security interests to be on the right side of history and to, as he did with regard to Egypt and as he has with regard to situations across the region, to support the democratic aspirations of the people, to support political dialogue between governments and their people, and that an outcome that results in greater pluralistic, democratic representative governments in the region will increase prosperity, stability and therefore — and also be good for the United States of America.
Q Jay, it sounds like the speech is an attempt to — the President to explain and recap for the American people why the U.S. got involved, what its goals are, and what's happened, and where we go from here, as opposed to a new policy speech; a chance for people who haven’t been paying attention to every news conference and radio address to kind of hear it all in one place. Is that the right way to think about this speech?
MR. CARNEY: Ben, I’m not going to deviate off of our promise not to characterize or describe or use language from the speech. Obviously, he’s going to speak about Libya, but I don't want to — while others — (laughter) –
Q Can we get that — that has to be off camera? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Can you — you all can tweet that, all right? But Chip was asking about whether we’re going to talk about some other countries. But I don't want to — I’m not going to steer you away from what you just said, but I don't think that I want to go into any detail about his speech because I think it’s important that it comes from him.
Q Well, what does the President want to accomplish?
MR. CARNEY: He will be speaking to the American people tonight to communicate about this very important issue, as he has on a number of occasions leading up to and through the decision to use military force in a coalition with our international partners in Libya. He thinks it’s an essential part of his job as Commander-in-Chief and as President to communicate with the people, just as with the people of this country about an issue this important, and just as he does — just as he thinks it’s an essential part of his job to communicate with members of Congress, which I think we discussed a lot in earlier briefings.
Q Jay, just to follow up on that, a number of times you and Denis have said you’re going to hear more about — we’ll hear more about this from Secretary Clinton tomorrow. Will the President leave things unexplained that Hillary Clinton will explain, or tonight will he answer the basic questions –
MR. CARNEY: Laura –
Q I’m not saying what he’s going to say, I’m just asking –
MR. CARNEY: — just say what he’s not going to say.
Q Well, I’m trying another way. Will the questions that members of Congress have been asking be answered tonight, in terms of what he sees as the end-game — you don't have to tell me what he’s going to say — just, do you think that he’ll satisfy those questions, which have been coming from both sides of the aisle, or will he also leave that for the Secretary of State?
MR. CARNEY: No. Look, I was echoing what Denis said, specifically on the issue of what an end-state looks like in Libya and the fact that the Secretary of State will be discussing that question in London. But beyond that — and the President will obviously use this opportunity to answer the questions that the American people have, as well as members of Congress have, about his decisions with regard to Libya. But I’m not going to — you can keep trying, but I’m not going to characterize it more than that.
Q The problem that we have is that once the speech is delivered, it’s not like we can come back and then have this moment to say what his goals were.
MR. CARNEY: We’ll talk tomorrow.
Q But we’re going to all have to write about it tonight, so if you could just give us a sense of what the –
MR. CARNEY: But, Laura, he will speak at some length tonight about it, and he’ll do it well, and I think that you ought to –
Q I’m not suggesting he won’t.
MR. CARNEY: He’ll do it, I’m sure, better than I could from here. So I’d just point you to the speech.
Q Thanks. Without talking about the speech, will we — will Americans have a better sense about what to expect in the rest of the region? In other words, I know each country is case by case and we’re trying to balance what are the U.S. interests against everybody’s desire for more freedoms and democratization and stuff, but is the new formula that if there’s a multilateral willingness to act and a multilateral agreement that a group-Western action would behoove everybody’s interests? Is that kind of the new parameter? There are all these other countries where all this other stuff is happening, and I think there’s two questions on Americans’ minds, right? One is what’s going to happen in Libya; and one is, when Libya is over, what’s going to happen everywhere else. Is the President going to talk about that? And what guidelines can you set forth for how that works?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, without getting into the contents of the speech, I will say that every country is different. And — as Denis said — and we don't — but there are overarching principles, which I’ve discussed and others; the President himself has discussed, which we — he looks at this — which he carries with him as he looks at the situation in the region and the specific countries where unrest is occurring and that is: nonviolent response; political dialogue; the universal rights of citizens. And that guides him.
These are the principles that he enunciated in Cairo in 2009, and those principles guide the way he views what’s happening in the region now. But again, our response — our policy response to each country will be different because the countries are so different — not both in their — what their governments are like; what the cultural makeup is like; the size; the response that the government is using when there have been protests; the international community’s response.
Again, on Libya, do not forget that we had a United States — I mean United Nations Security Council resolution — two of them, and in terms of the use of the kinetic force, we had 1973. And beyond the UNSC, we also had support from the Arab League. We had support in a request from the Libyan opposition for precisely what the Security Council resolution allowed for, which was — to go back to some questions we’ve had before — that the Libyan opposition did not ask for the use of international force to create regime change, it asked for the help that we have given them in terms of a no-fly zone and the other assistance that's been provided. So these are unique set of circumstances.
Q Why is the President not delivering this from the Oval Office? Why in an auditorium? Is it not — and not primetime but at 7:30 p.m.? Is he trying to not make this speech comparable to other Presidents who have announced war efforts?
MR. CARNEY: I think giving an address that's going to be covered by the — we hope by all the major networks and cable channels is — signifies how important we think this is. As Denis mentioned, the National Defense University is a very appropriate place to give a speech like this, given the tremendous engagement and sacrifice that our armed forces have been making around — Libya being the case specific right now, but around the world in different areas; and one area that Denis mentioned that people tend to forget because it’s not a traditional military operation, and that's the assistance provided to our allies in Japan.
And I think there are different venues to do this. It’s still — it is the President speaking to the American people and — at a time when we expect a lot of Americans will be home and able to watch.
Q Will he speak at all directly to any of the opposition voices in Libya, Yemen –
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't want to preview the contents of the speech.
Q Thanks. In the joint declaration made by Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron on Libya, which was just released, they are saying that they are insisting on a new beginning for Libya, and they're saying at the end, we must unite to help them make again a new beginning. Can we expect the President tonight to have something different than that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I’m not going to get into the contents of the President’s speech, Laura, but I will say that, broadly speaking, the President has made it clear that he thinks Libya deserves a new beginning and that Colonel Qaddafi is no longer a legitimate leader of Libya, both in the eyes of his people or in the eyes of the world.
Q The advances of the rebels over the weekend appear to be possible because the coalition airplanes got there first and bombed the Libyan positions. Is that the policy now, moving from the defensive mission, which it was in Benghazi, to prepare the ground for the rebels’ advance? And is the coalition prepared to do that all the way to Tripoli?
MR. CARNEY: In terms of tactical military operations, I think the Defense Department is better suited to answer that question.
Q But that's a strategic question –
Q But that’s not — yes, that’s not tactical.
Q But are you confident that what was taking place was compatible with the resolution protecting civilians? Is that — is attacking military positions, the Libyan –
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think that the Defense Department is better suited to answer some of these questions. But I think that the civilian protection aspect of the revolution — not a revolution — of the resolution allows for taking action in order — if the military forces were in question here, Qaddafi’s forces are — are and have been attacking Libyan civilians, that goes right at the heart of the resolution and the mission it authorizes.
Q Thank you. What is the President going to say tonight? (Laughter.) Critics on the left or right and voices in the media have talked about there being some confusion in the public over the President’s aims and the goals and intentions of this mission. Do you believe that from the very start the White House has communicated effectively with the public about what the President is thinking regards to the Libyan action?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely, yes. No, David, seriously, I think — I want to get at this question, because somebody over the weekend on one of these shows suggested that — or claimed outright that the White House had suggested that some of the questions raised by members of Congress were illegitimate. No one in the White House ever said that. I certainly never said that from this podium.
Questions are legitimate. They deserve to be answered. We have endeavored to answer them from the President, to the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, Deputy National Security Advisor, and the Press Secretary and others.
So they’re all — they are legitimate questions. And it is understandable that there is complexity here that needs to be explained and we have tried to explain, which is that there is the military mission, the goals of which are quite clearly laid out in the resolution authorizing the use of force in all necessary measures.
And then there are the over — and there are the other baskets, the other tools. I think Secretary Gates said it well that we have more than just hammers in our toolbox here, and the things that we are doing unilaterally as the United States, but also in concert with our international allies, to put pressure on Qaddafi and isolate Qaddafi, that is also very much an important aspect of our policy.
And I think that where you see the question of confusion come up is this idea that because we have stated, the President has stated, that we do not believe Qaddafi is a legitimate leader and that he should leave power, and yet we are not authorizing our military — or the U.N. Security Council resolution is not authorized to take out or remove or effect regime change in Libya, that there is somehow confusion in that.
There is a military mission designed to protect civilians, to enforce a no-fly zone. And there is a policy of this administration that we are pursuing through other measures that seeks to isolate and pressure Qaddafi to the point where he leaves power.
Q To follow up on that, Mitt Romney has attacked the President for being nuanced and timid on other things. Do you think that having a policy that has these different levels is just hard to explain in a hyper-media –
MR. CARNEY: I would just say, David, we’ve tried to explain it and I think — when it’s explained well and clearly, that it is understandable. And the President has done that on a number of occasions, and again the American people will hear him speak to it tonight.
Q NRC Chairman Jaczko is in Japan right now. Do you have any information? Was he instructed by the White House to go there in any capacity?
MR. CARNEY: I know that he is in Japan, but I don't have his — I mean, it’s an independent agency, so I don't believe he was instructed by the White House. But obviously I think the fact that he’s there reflects the intense engagement between the NRC and its Japanese counterparts, the number of experts the NRC has had in Japan, trying to assist our allies there. And the fact that the chairman is there, I think, reflects that commitment.
Q May I follow up on that?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Thank you, Jay. So on the situation in Japan, what's the latest assessment by the administration on the situation on the ground? About a week ago the situation seemed to be — stopped getting worse, but now Japanese officials are now saying that there may be a leaking from a core of a reactor. Is the situation deteriorating again, or what's your sense of that?
And secondly, on the ripple effect of the Japan earthquake on the U.S. economy or the world economy, a week ago General Motors announced that they laid off 59 people because of the disruption of the parts from Japan. What's your sense of the impact of the earthquake on the U.S. economy and the world economy?
MR. CARNEY: Let me take the economic question first. We continue to believe that while this is a very serious situation and has immediate impacts economically, that the — we have great confidence in the resiliency of the Japanese people and the strength of its economy and believe that Japan will recover, and that is good for — obviously for Japan but also for all of its trading partners and for the United States.
On the issue specifically with the reactors, I think the NRC is better suited — or the Department of Energy — to get into the specifics. What I can tell you is we obviously monitor it a lot very closely from here. The President gets constant updates. Our national security team is focused on this, continues to be focused on it. And we are aware of the fact that while the world’s attention has shifted to other areas, that the situation in Japan remains serious. And that's why we have committed so many resources to helping the Japanese in any way that we can with that problem.
MR. EARNEST: Jay, we should just do last one –
MR. CARNEY: This is the last one, yes.
Q Thank you, Jay. And following up on the diplomatic talks to achieve U.S. stated goal of getting Qaddafi to leave, can you elaborate a little bit on — beyond financial sanctions? What are they?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there were a lot of things that were laid out in the initial United Nations Security Council resolution, but they are — the financial sanctions are important; the travel restrictions are important; the referral to the International Criminal Court is very important.
I mean, part of this is aimed directly at Colonel Qaddafi, but obviously a lot of it is aimed at those around him who have to make a judgment about what their lives will look like if they continue to stand by Colonel Qaddafi and — with the full understanding that they will be held accountable by the international community. And we obviously encourage the people around Colonel Qaddafi and the Libyan regime to consider that very carefully, consider the future of their country, the future of their people and their own personal futures in making decisions in these next days and weeks.
12:23 P.M. EDT
Tags: Office of the Press Secretary, Press Briefings, United States, Whitehouse