From the start, the administration insisted that it was acting to avert the imminent slaughter of civilians in Benghazi and other rebel-held cities, and that the goal of the military operations was clearly spelled out in the United Nations Security Council resolution.
Mr. Obama’s administration, however, has clearly tried to avoid the debate over a strategy beyond that by shifting the burden of enforcing the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing force on to France, Britain and other allies, including Arab nations like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which on Thursday said that it would contribute warplanes to the effort. In other words, the American exit strategy is not necessarily the coalition’s exit strategy.
“We didn’t want to get sucked into an operation with uncertainty at the end,” the senior administration official said. “In some ways, how it turns out is not on our shoulders.”
In other words, the administration has no clear sense of what the outcome of the Libyan war "time- and scope-limited kinetic action" will (or even should) be. So in the event that things end badly, they'd like everyone to know they're preemptively exonerating themselves from any blame. Jonah Goldberg piles on, dismantling the White House's "we're not really in charge of this operation" charade:
It is bizarre beyond mortal ken the way Obama is trying to pretend that we are not leading this effort and that we are not responsible for how it ends. First of all, we run NATO, so handing this off to NATO is like GE handing off a project to a European subsidiary and then claiming it’s not their project. Second, even as we delegate command and control to this thing, we’re still going to be providing the bulk of the kinetic action.
It boils down to what you think coalitions are for. I see them as a worthwhile means to a goal, not a goal in themselves. As I’ve been saying for years, it sometimes seems that liberal foreign policy can be summed up as “it’s better to do wrong in a group than to do right alone.”
Last, what’s most infuriating is that if this ends “well” — say Qaddafi is killed by one of his own men in the next couple days or the rebels manage to assassinate him, or he flees to Venezuela, whatever — you know that Obama will take credit for leading this successful mission and he will be praised for his “leadership” by many of the same people who are now pretending they believe this fiction that NATO has taken over.
Independent of one's position on the theoretical rectitude of this US-led intervention, its non-existent roll-out, incoherent justification, dysfunctional (and arguably belated) execution, baffling chain-of-command issues, and muddled goals have not inspired confidence. That the White House already appears eager to distance itself from the ultimate result of its own mission begs the question why they decided to undertake it in the first place.
UPDATE - A humorous take on liberal cognitive dissonance over Libya. "I don't care. Obama is cool and awesome" (via Powerline):