CFR’s James Lindsay: White House should be ‘moderately’ worried on Libya

New poll results from a Rasmussen Reports survey show that only 26 percent of likely U.S. voters think the United States should continue military actions in Libya. Forty-two percent are opposed, and 32 percent are undecided, according to the 1,000 respondents.

This would be considered less than a vote of confidence by most standards.

But Council on Foreign Relations Senior Vice President James M. Lindsay suggests that the White House should only be “moderately” concerned about these results--especially since Congress isn’t taking any serious action.

Presidents always want the American public squarely on their side and that’s not the case here. But the Rasmussen poll does contain some good news—a third of Americans remain on the fence about Libya. Moreover, while a plurality of Americans dislikes the Libyan intervention, the intensity of public opposition falls far short of the levels seen over Iraq in 2006 let alone Vietnam in the early 1970s. Voters aren’t marching on Washington demanding that Congress halt U.S. military action in Libya. True, the House did pass a resolution ten days ago scolding President Obama for failing to “provide Congress with a compelling rationale” for the Libyan intervention. But it was a non-binding resolution. Translation: Congress is not yet ready to confront the president directly. So a Qaddafi departure over the next couple of weeks could turn Operation Odyssey Dawn from a growing political problem into a political win for Obama.

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He blogs and hosts a podcast at and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.


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