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Republican senators made the same complaint, including Richard Lugar of Indiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky. House Speaker John Boehner said the president needed to more fully explain the mission and its objectives to Congress and the American people.

But Mr. Obama’s strained argument - that he had not really entered into a war, but was trying to prevent “a humanitarian disaster” - was embarrassingly thin if not dishonest. War by its very definition can be a humanitarian action, but bombing a country’s army is clearly an act of war. Why does Mr. Obama deny that?

America is now engaged in four wars, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya, under an inexperienced president who ran for office criticizing the previous president’s “rush to war.” A Rasmussen poll earlier this month showed that 63 percent of Americans surveyed wanted the U.S. to stay out of Libya.

But the field of battle that Mr. Obama chose to enter is clearly a civil war seeking to topple a despotic ruler that President Reagan once called the “mad dog of the Middle East.” Fighting Taliban or al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan is tough enough, but getting into lengthy civil wars that are now sweeping throughout the Middle East is a huge leap into disaster. Let them fight their own wars.

Mr. Obama faces a lot of troubling questions about his unexplained actions in Libya, questions that could pester him throughout the 2012 election.

Let’s see how he argues his way out of this one.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.