LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:
NPR's Don Gonyea reports.
DON GONYEA: Tonight's speech will be his first major attempt to explain. He offered a preview in his weekly address on Saturday, saying the U.S. should not and cannot intervene every time there's a crisis somewhere in the world.
BARACK OBAMA: But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized, when someone like Gadhafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region, and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives, then it's in our national interest to act.
GONYEA: On NBC's "Meet the Press," Gates was asked if Libya fits the definition of a vital U.S. interest.
ROBERT GATES: No, I don't think it's a vital interest for the United States, but we clearly have interests there, and it's a part of the region which is a vital interest for the United States.
GONYEA: Secretary of State Clinton quickly followed, stating that the U.S. is acting as a member of NATO, pointing out that when the U.S. asked for NATO allies to join the war in Afghanistan following 9/11, they responded.
HILLARY CLINTON: When it comes to Libya, we started hearing from the U.K., France, Italy, other of our NATO allies. This was in their vital national interest.
GONYEA: On "Meet the Press," Senator Richard Lugar says the president should have sought congressional approval. And...
RICHARD LUGAR: There must be a plan, there must be objectives, the end game, what we want to achieve, and then at least some means as to how that's going to occur. That has not happened as yet.
GONYEA: The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin, was on CNN. He backed up the White House on Libya, adding that the no- fly zone is working.
CARL LEVIN: It has set Gadhafi back. He's on his heels now, moving his troops towards his capital, where he's strong. But it has prevented the slaughter of Libyan people, and that is what the trigger was for the president.
GONYEA: And there's the wider ongoing unrest in the region that presents more unknowns. That's something Republican Senator John McCain cautioned about on "Fox News Sunday." He cites Yemen as just one example.
JOHN MCCAIN: Yemen is entirely different. This is going to be a huge problem, because it is basically a tribal society, as you know, cobbled together, the country, by the British. And so it's going to be very difficult in some of these countries.
GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.
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