Gallup polled adults over the weekend, before Barack Obama’s speech, to determine the support the President had for his adventure in Libya. He’d better hope that his speech moves the needle, because Obama only managed to eke out a tie, 44/44, on his handling of the crisis. The poll also shows a deep distaste for major involvement in military action in Libya:
Americans are evenly divided at 44% in their reaction to Obama’s handling of the situation in Libya — similar to his overall job approval rating in Gallup Daily tracking in recent days — with Democrats much more likely than Republicans to approve of how he is responding to Libya.
The “much more likely” is relative. Obama only gets a 61/28 from his own party, almost the exact opposite of the Republican 26/63. Independents split towards disapproval, 42/45. On another point, Republicans and Democrats are closer to agreement: both would prefer to see the US military remove Gaddafi from power rather than just enforce a no-fly zone (50/43 GOP, 50/37 Dems). Independents and self-described moderates and liberals prefer the no-fly zone approach.
When it comes to a preferred role in the Libyan military action, though, only Republicans favor a leading or major role over a minor role or no role at all (52/47). Among both independents (60%) and Democrats (63%), and among all ideological self-identifications, the majority want the US to only play a minor role or withdraw altogether.
Of course, that’s what Obama promised last night in his speech, but the AP points out that even relabeling the effort as a NATO mission doesn’t change who’s firing weapons into Libya:
OBAMA: “Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and no-fly zone. … Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Gadhafi’s remaining forces. In that effort, the United States will play a supporting role.”
THE FACTS: As by far the pre-eminent player in NATO, and a nation historically reluctant to put its forces under operational foreign command, the United States will not be taking a back seat in the campaign even as its profile diminishes for public consumption.
NATO partners are bringing more into the fight. But the same “unique capabilities” that made the U.S. the inevitable leader out of the gate will continue to be in demand. They include a range of attack aircraft, refueling tankers that can keep aircraft airborne for lengthy periods, surveillance aircraft that can detect when Libyans even try to get a plane airborne, and, as Obama said, planes loaded with electronic gear that can gather intelligence or jam enemy communications and radars.
The United States supplies 22 percent of NATO’s budget, almost as much as the next largest contributors — Britain and France — combined. A Canadian three-star general was selected to be in charge of all NATO operations in Libya. His boss, the commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, is an American admiral, and the admiral’s boss is the supreme allied commander Europe, a post always held by an American.
Call this a NINO operation — NATO In Name Only. As Americans learn this through observation, don’t expect a big bump for Obama in the next few iterations of this poll.