James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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TWE Quick Takes: President Obama’s Political Challenge on Libya

by James M. Lindsay
March 28, 2011

People protest in the streets regarding the United States' actions in Libya, in Tucson, Arizona on March 19, 2011.

Protesters rallying against the United States' actions in Libya, in Tucson, Arizona on March 19, 2011. (Rick Scuteri/courtesy Reuters)

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press just released a new poll on what Americans think about Operation Odyssey Dawn. The Pew results look a lot like Gallup’s results last week. A plurality of Americans (47 percent) think that President Obama made the “right decision” and a minority (36 percent) think he made the “wrong decision.” Republicans are slightly more supportive than Democrats (54 percent for versus 49 percent), and Independents (44 percent for) are the least supportive.

The Pew results suggest that the Obama administration’s efforts to convey a clear sense of purpose on Libya haven’t worked:

The public does not think that the U.S. and its allies have a clear goal in taking military action in Libya. Just 39% say the U.S. and its allies have a clear goal, while 50% say they do not.

The public also doubts President Obama’s assurance that U.S. involvement in Libya will be measured in “days and not weeks:”

Most Americans see a fairly lengthy involvement for the United States in the Libyan operation. Six-in-ten (60%) think the U.S. involvement in military action in Libya will last for some time; just 33% expect that it will be over pretty quickly.

Expect the president to devote a good portion of his speech tonight to addressing both concerns.

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