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Veteran Advisor

Obama's Libya Strategy Driven By Politics

As is often the case, the president's Libya strategy looks politics-driven, as senators get privately briefed while the public is left guessing. The public deserves more.

Thursday's classified briefing of senators by Obama officials on possible U.S. intervention in Libya was by all signs a political success.

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., came away believing "the administration is moving and now the only question is time." Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who always comes through in the clutch — for Democrats — said afterward, "I want to take back criticism I gave to them yesterday and say, 'you are doing the right thing.'"

But has Obama's underlying role in inflaming the Middle East — Libya being merely the latest manifestation — been "the right thing"?

Whether George W. Bush was prescient or naive in declaring that America's liberation of Iraq lit an "untamed fire of freedom" that will "reach the darkest corners of our world" may be debatable. But the Obama Doctrine seems to be the foreign policy equivalent of arson.

The president strikes the match, as he did in his 2009 Cairo speech criticizing U.S. allies like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and implicitly apologizing for U.S. actions in Iraq and Iran. But as the fire grows, Obama is unable to direct the flames or put it out.

The United Nations has now given the U.S. permission to intervene in Libya, but waiting to create that "partnership" allowed Moammar Gadhafi to crush rebel forces, perhaps definitively.

And can Americans be blamed for asking why the U.S. even needs permission to act against the regime behind the 1988 Pan Am 103 massacre and the 1986 Berlin disco bombing killing two U.S. servicemen?

Politics seems to saturate Obama's entire national security policy. As Bob Woodward revealed in "Obama's Wars," the president answered Graham's question of whether July 2011 was a conditional or unconditional withdrawal date for Afghanistan with the incredible response that "I can't lose the whole Democratic Party."

Testifying before Congress Wednesday, our Afghan forces commander Gen. David Petraeus was asked why we should stay in Afghanistan. "Two words, and those are 9/11," he answered.

But in "The Promise," Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter says regarding Petraeus and others advocating that the deadline be conditional: "Obama's attitude was 'I'm president. I don't give a s--- what they say. I'm drawing down those troops,' said one senior official who saw him nearly every day."

The "most striking omission" Alter found in Obama's December 2009 West Point speech announcing the new Afghan strategy was "any definition of victory."

What we'd like now, and we don't think is too much to ask, is a clear definition of the strategic objective in Libya and why this mission is in the national interest.