President Obama reasserted America's responsibility as a world leader to prevent atrocities Monday as he defended intervention in Libya amid critics concerned with the cost of military action and involvement in another war.
"To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some 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 refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action," he said during a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
The president said military actions launched by the U.S.-led international coalition was crucial and necessary to stop Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who is accused of using violence against his own people.
Protests against Gadhafi, who has been in power for more than 40 years, began last month.
"Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked," the president said. "Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off."
Obama's remarks come during what seems to be a major shift in Libya – with rebels, aided by the U.S. and European-engineered no-fly zone and bombing of Gadhafi's strongholds, have advanced on Gadhafi's hometown and reclaimed two critical oil-producing areas.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on "Good Morning America" today that there is no indication that Gadhafi is prepared to step down which is why efforts to squeeze out his resources continue.
While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with other world leaders will gather in London to discuss the country's future.
While Obama said America's security was not threatened, the country's "interests and values" were at risk.
In response to critics who have said that the United States should not use military intervention or "police the world," Obama acknowledged that the American military cannot be deployed "wherever repression occurs."
But he said that cannot be a reason for inaction.
"Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges," he said. "But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That is what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks."
For more from inside Libya, click here. Recent polls show that Americans generally support the military operations in Libya, but they're looking to the president to address the many unanswered questions about what's next.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said she found Obama's speech "profoundly disappointing because it proved that the Obama doctrine is still full of chaos and questions," in an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren.
Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, has been a vocal critic of any U.S. involvement in operations in Libya.
"People have to understand that we're sacrificing our domestic agenda here," he said. "Things are falling apart at home while we're searching the world, looking for dragons to slay."