During a sober discussion that lasted several minutes, the president told Leno that he doesn't agree with critics who say the U.S. led from behind.
"We led from the front," Obama said, by "introducing the resolution in the United Nations that allowed us to protect civilians in Libya" and then by deploying U.S. pilots to destroy Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses and U.S. personnel to coordinate the air campaign.
In the end, said the president, the effort "only cost us $1 billion as opposed to $1 trillion" — a not-too-veiled comparison to the war in Iraq started by his predecessor. And, "not a single U.S. troop [was] on the ground ... not a single U.S. troop was killed."
"That, I think, is a recipe for success in the future."
As for Gadhafi, the president said that "obviously, you never like to see anybody come to the kind of end that he did, but I think it obviously sends a strong message around the world to dictators that people long to be free, and they need to respect the human rights and the universal aspirations of people."