Well, don’t think of it as Barack Obama’s approval on Libya dropping underwater — think of it as a stalemateMarist released more data from its latest survey on Obama’s performance, and the news on Libya looks bleak as approval of his performance dropped to 44%, with 46% disapproving.  Interestingly, liberals that protested the Bush war in Iraq seem most supportive of the Obama intervention in Libya:

Registered voters nationally divide.  46% disapprove, 44% approve, and one in ten — 10% — are unsure.

“President Obama is walking a fine line on U.S. involvement in Libya,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “In the short run, he has a lot of convincing to do.  Without greater support, in the long run, it’s hard to imagine people won’t increasingly question his policy in the region.”

Partisan politics are in play on this question.  More than six in ten Democratic voters — 63% — approve of how Mr. Obama is dealing with the issue while about two-thirds of Republican voters — 66% — disapprove.  Nearly half of independents — 48% — are dissatisfied with how the president is handling the situation while 42% approve.

The approval of Democrats and self-described liberals (59%) seem rather odd, except for partisan inclinations.  Obama didn’t bother to get Congressional authorization for the action, a move which supposedly enraged Obama’s Left.  If so, it didn’t remain outraged for very long.  The current level of approval might have more to do with the withdrawal of explicit American leadership in the West’s war on Moammar Gaddafi, but so far that isn’t impressing independents or Republicans.

Nor has it impressed either side in Libya, which now looks like an intractable stalemate:

A desperate call for more help sounds from Libya almost every day. Libyans are disappointed, feeling let down by NATO, said one resident of Misrata, the western city under a vicious siege from Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

As blood flows on the battlefields that are Libya’s towns and cities, the optimism that surfaced at the start of the conflict is but a memory. The military campaign in Libya was expected to be quick and precise, using sophisticated aerial military technology optimized to reduce casualties.

But it became apparent that Gadhafi was not going to fall quickly in the footsteps of his neighbors Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia or Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. He was not going to be the third data point, as it were, in the trend line of the Arab Spring.

Now it seems the war could drag on for weeks, months or, by some troubling estimates, perhaps even years as NATO squabbles over strategy and Gadhafi camouflages his forces within civilian populations and, according to reports, is using banned weapons such as cluster bombs.

Can the West win?  As CNN explains, no one is even really sure what constitutes victory:

“They are trying to avoid losing,” said military strategy scholar Michael Keane, a fellow of National Security at the Pacific Council on International Policy. “But we’re not trying to win because we’re not sure what that means.”

Not sure because from the very beginning, U.S. President Barack Obama and his European counterparts have made it expressly clear that the Libyan campaign is not about regime change.

This is one reason why approval ratings are as low as they are for Obama on this issue.  He took the nation to war without explaining himself at all, and when he finally decided to talk to the American people, he was busy preparing to withdraw from combat missions without explaining why we were leaving short of the obvious mission of regime change.  The confusion in Libya was matched by confusion and a lack of leadership by Obama on this issue here at home.

Note: Two Western journalists were killed in Misrata yesterday, presumably from shelling conducted by Gaddafi’s forces:

British-born Tim Hetherington, the Oscar-nominated co-director of the documentary “Restrepo” about U.S. soldiers on an outpost in Afghanistan, was killed Wednesday inside the only rebel-held city in western Libya, said his U.S.-based publicist, Johanna Ramos Boyer. The city has come under weeks of relentless shelling by government troops.

Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, was also killed Wednesday. His work appeared in major magazines and newspapers around the world, and his awards include the Robert Capa Gold Medal, one of the highest prizes in war photography.

I have no idea of their political viewpoint, but the two men showed great courage in going to the front to try to get the story of Misrata for their audience.  During the campaign in Iraq, some criticized journalists who stayed in the Green Zone to file reports, rather than venture out with the military for front-line reporting and a better product.   Hetherington and Hondros knew the risks and chose to risk their lives to report first-hand.  Their courage and dedication will be missed.  Shaun Mullen has further thoughts at TMV.