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The president said the U.S. wasn’t involved in “hostilities” for very long owing to the limited nature of the war. Then his administration argued that Congress should focus on the U.S. effort to protect civilians from Libya’s military forces loyal to Col. Gadhafi.

As Congress debated the issue and failed to agree on a course of action, Mr. Obama essentially faced no opposition to continuing his policy.

The president’s critics nevertheless are confronted with this reality: As a result of Mr. Obama’s orders, two of the world’s most dangerous figures in the Muslim world, Osama bin Laden and Col. Gadhafi, have been killed this year.

“Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives” in Libya, Mr. Obama said. “This comes at a time when we see the strength of American leadership across the world. We have taken out al Qaeda leaders, or put them on the path to defeat. We are winding down the war in Iraq, and we’ve got a transition in Afghanistan.”

Later, in an Oval Office meeting with the prime minister of Norway, Mr. Obama said he intends to rely on allies “increasingly” for operations such as the Libya campaign.

“Wherever we have the possibility of working with outstanding partners like Norway, I think we’re going to be more effective,” Mr. Obama said. “The United States will always reserve its right and its duty to protect ourselves, but I think what this shows is, on a whole range of international issues, there is enormous capacity, and we are capable of leveraging greater resources, more effectiveness at lower cost, when we are able to work together.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, on Thursday praised Mr. Obama’s leadership on Libya.

“Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, our military’s strength, the cooperation of our NATO allies and the bravery of tens of thousands of ordinary Libyans who stood up to oppression, Gadhafi will never again harm another human being,” Mr. Reid said. “With Gadhafi’s fate sealed, it is critical that we work with our allies in NATO and the region to integrate Libya into the international community of free, democratic nations.”

Mr. Boehner, in a statement, made no mention of the president’s role, but called Col. Gadhafi’s death a “turning point in the Libyan people’s pursuit of freedom.”

He added that it’s now time for Libya’s National Transitional Council “to show the world that it will respect the rights of all Libyans, guide the nation to democracy, and work with the international coalition and its neighbors to secure Libya’s borders and any weapons and weapons materials.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said Col. Gadhafi masterminded numerous terrorist attacks that killed Americans, while noting that U.S. allies such as Britain and France conducted much more of the military support operation than had American forces.

“We are impressed with the tenacity of the Libyan people in reclaiming their freedoms and honor the service of American and NATO forces that courageously assisted on this endeavor,” Mr. Rubio said. “Gadhafi has now joined the list of failed and disgraced tyrants that have faced justice from their own people. We still have a long and arduous road ahead as we partner with the free Libyan people to build a more prosperous and democratic future.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said, “it’s about time” when he learned of Col. Gadhafi’s death.

“This was a tyrant who has been killing his own people and of course is responsible for the lives of American citizens lost in the Lockerbie attack,” Mr. Romney said, referring to the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that left 270 people dead. “And I think people across the world recognize that the world is a better place without Moammar Gadhafi.”