Barack Obama tried to convince Univision last night that the US has an exit strategy from the Libya conflict, and that strategy is to, er, stick around and fight. Jake Tapper calls it a Lewis Carroll moment, while others might consider it more Orwellian:
In an interview with Univision Tuesday, President Obama re-defined the term “exit strategy,” and said our exit strategy in Libya would begin this week.
“The exit strategy will be executed this week,” President Obama said, “in the sense that we will be pulling back from our much more active efforts to shape the environment. We will still be in a support role. We will be supplying jamming, intelligence and other assets unique to us.”
Planes in the air? Ships in the Mediterranean? Intelligence being provided? Doesn’t sound like an exit strategy at all.
What it does recall is Lewis Carroll.
“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
Tapper goes on to heap more scorn on Obama’s sudden embrace of the non-exit exit strategy, so be sure to read it all. And he’s right to do so: an exit strategy is just that: a strategy towards an exit. What Obama is attempting to sell is a handoff of responsibility for military leadership to someone else, anyone else.
It’s not the only point of confusion about Obama’s aims, either. Even before this conflict, people expressed puzzlement over what an Obama Doctrine that would explain his foreign policy would comprise. That ambiguity, sold as “nuance” before the Libya attack, now looks more like a chaotic muddle:
But on Libya, Obama’s opacity is coming back to haunt him, as critics from both parties press him on his rationale for taking action and for a more specific articulation of his vision for American goals and aspirations in the Mideast and elsewhere.
Politico’s Glenn Thrush spins this heavily towards nuance, but calling an ambiguous plan for long-term involvement an “exit strategy” reveals that this President has no idea what he wants or how to get it. Instead of having some semblance of a foreign policy plan, Obama and his team are playing it by ear — an obvious conclusion based on the no-we-won’t-oh-wait-yes-we-will vacillation on Libya that put American forces in position to start a mission whose window for success had already closed.
Update: Jazz Shaw writes today about the blatant hypocrisy at the heart of the UN “R2P” doctrine on which Obama relied.