The 2012 contenders want Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi out. They want the United States to lead. They are skeptical of the role of the United Nations and the Arab League. They want no protracted engagement. But few have offered anything approaching an exit strategy.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has been accused of flip-flopping on the wisdom of military intervention, which he says is a misreading of what he said and when he said it. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney supports the current mission while saying the president has no coherent foreign policy in Libya or elsewhere. But he hasn’t said explicitly that he would have moved unilaterally with military action or what that would have involved.
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty says the decision to implement a no-fly zone may have come too late to save rebel forces from defeat, but he, too, has had little else to say. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin wants a quick and decisive victory and an equally quick withdrawal. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, questions Obama’s leadership but also harbors doubts about the longer-run consequences of military intervention.
Palin was the latest to weigh in on the controversy. She spoke Wednesday night on Fox News with host Greta Van Susteren after returning to the United States from a trip to India and Italy.
“As long as we’re in it, we’d better be in it to win it, and if there’s doubt, we get out,” she said. “Win it means Gaddafi goes and America gets to get on out of there and let the people of Libya create their own government, choose their own leader, and America — no nation building. We get out. We take care of our affairs elsewhere.”
Palin said she expects to see Gaddafi dead, either at the hands of the rebel forces or American and allied forces. “Gaddafi has the blood of innocent Americans on his hands,” she said, referring to Libya’s role in the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, that blew up Pan Am Flight 103, killing 270 people. “He needs to be held accountable for that. Though it happened all those years ago, now’s our opportunity to make sure he is held accountable.”
Her critique carried an echo of George W. Bush’s unilateralist approach to foreign policy. “America will have failed if we turn over command and control of this mission and the mission of ousting Gaddafi is not fulfilled,” she said. “It will be failure. People across the world look to America to lead on an international affair like this.”
But Palin, like Obama, stopped short of explaining how the United States should extract itself from Libya. Nor did she talk about a post-Gaddafi Libya and the prospects for ensuring that a stable government emerges from the conflict.