Green Room

Deputy National Security Adviser McDonough: “We’re not talking about an exit strategy.”

posted at 6:06 am on March 24, 2011 by

Yesterday evening, PBS’ Gwen Ifill interviewed Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough. Toward the end, after listening to him repeat his talking points a few times, she finally asked what the exit strategy was. McDonough’s response can be seen here:

But don’t make the mistake of assuming this was an off script comment by a lone adviser. On the contrary, yesterday we had the President himself fudging the very concept of an exit strategy (for which Jake Tapper humorously compared him to Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty). We have the Chief of Naval Operations expressing uncertainty about the possibility of drawing down forces. And we have the Secretary of Defense saying there is no “timeline” in Libya.

So I guess what we’ve learned this week is as follows:

  • Bombing tank columns on the ground is not war.
  • Maintaining an active and ongoing support role in the coalition is an exit strategy.
  • We’ll definitely be out in days or weeks, but there’s no timeline.

I like Tapper’s Lewis Carroll reference, but I think we’re actually getting close to Jedi mind trick territory, i.e. these aren’t the F-15s you’re looking for. Maybe that sort of thing might have worked on a fawning press two years ago when many reporters seemed swept up in the moment. I don’t think they’re in the mood for it any longer.

It’s time for some straight answers about what our short and long term goals are, who is in charge of this mission, and how (and when) we plan to leave the place better off than we found it. As a frequent critic of his predecessor on precisely these sorts of issues, the President owes us that much.

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