West Wing briefing: White House avoids ‘war’ and plays down Obama role in Libya

March 25, 2011

As it manages the crisis in Libya, the White House is determined to avoid it turning into “Obama’s War.”

Administration officials have repeatedly denied the military intervention, which has involved attacking the forces of the Libyan government for days with airstrikes, is a “war.”

“It is a time-limited, scope-limited military action, in concert with our international partners, with the objective of protecting civilian life in Libya from Moammar Gaddafi and his forces,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday.

A day earlier, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said the conflict “involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end.”

But he added, “the nature of our commitment is that we are not getting into an open-ended war, a land invasion in Libya. What we are doing is offering a unique set of capabilities over a period of days that can shape the environment for a no-fly zone.”

Just as carefully, the administration is trying to avoid turning Obama the the central figure in the conflict. White House officials have constantly emphasized that the coalition of countries trying to protect Libyan rebels is not being led by the U.S.

And when NATO agreed to take over administering the no-fly zone, it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not Obama, who made the public announcement Thursday. Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will head to Capitol Hill next week to defend the intervention in a closed-door meeting with members of Congress, not Obama.

Obama today

The president will attend a reception for Greek Independence Day but has no other public events.

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