The Administration’s Got Some Explaining to Do About Libya

Security advisor says there is no exit strategy.

Posted: 03/24/2011 02:49 PM EDT
Filed Under Barack Obama

Filipino Muslims shout slogans during a rally after the Friday prayers at the Blue Mosque at suburban Taguig city, east of Manila, Philippines, to protest the allied forces' air strike in Libya. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

President Obama has been getting it from both sides this week about his decision to engage the U.S. in military action in Libya. Key questions center on the mission’s purpose, the extent of America’s role, benchmarks for success and what the endgame will be.

If an interview that PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill had with Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough last night is anything to go by, administration officials may want to start practicing answering such questions. When asked by Ifill how the White House will determine success and what happens if Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi remains in office, McDonough struggled to provide a coherent answer. And when asked directly what the U.S.’s exit strategy is, he provided an answer sure to infuriate Congress. (See a video report on the uprising in Libya.)

 “Well, we’re not talking about an exit strategy. As I said, the president defined it very clearly the other night in terms of our initial efforts in this undertaking. We carved out a space where we will be able to enable our partners to take over the no-fly zone,” he said. “We have turned the troops back from Benghazi, protected those civilians. And we continue to degrade his forces, so they can’t undertake the kind of mass atrocity that we all feared just a week ago… So, that’s an initial success. But the longer-term success is going to take additional efforts. And it’s not going to be a solely military effort, by any means.”

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