Published for Shadow Government at foreignpolicy.com, March 28th, 2011:
President Obama’s speech tonight on Libya is like the intervention itself: tardy but perhaps not too late to achieve its purpose. While administration officials have spoken volumes, the president has been largely missing from the action. The president’s absence may have contributed to the confusion that has characterized the Libya policy. The speech, therefore, will be a bit more important than the run-of-the-mill Big Speech every president must make when he launches a military conflict.
Here are Four Key Questions to ask yourself when the president has closed with “… and God bless the United States of America.”:
1. Did President Obama take responsibility for the outcomes or did he only commit to the inputs? Many observers, myself included, have worried that the president has focused too much on inputs and not enough on outcomes. I don’t expect him to comment directly on the unnamed senior administration official who said, “In some ways, how it turns out is not on our shoulders.” But make no mistake: this speech is very much the administration’s response to the very concerns that comments like that have exacerbated. Perhaps the most important thing President Obama will say (or not say) is whether the U.S. mission merely involves conducting airstrikes (inputs) or whether the mission has more strategic objectives. If the latter, then it is very much on our shoulders how it turns out.