Just as President Obama returned to Washington from Latin America, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a letter posing a series of questions about the nation's involvement in Libya. While the missive drips of politics, it asks some real questions that need answering.
You can read the letter in full here. But I've picked out the questions Boehner asks that track with what I’ve been asking myself.
[I]s it an acceptable outcome for Qadhafi to remain in power after the military effort concludes in Libya?
You have said that the support of the international community was critical to your decision to strike Libya. But, like many Americans, it appears many of our coalition partners are themselves unclear on the policy goals of this mission. If the coalition dissolves or partners continue to disengage, will the American military take on an increased role? Will we disengage?
Since the stated U.S. policy goal is removing Qadhafi from power, do you have an engagement strategy for the opposition forces? If the strife in Libya becomes a protracted conflict, what are your Administration’s objectives for engaging with opposition forces, and what standards must a new regime meet to be recognized by our government?
If Qadhafi remains in power, how long will a no-fly zone will be enforced?
[W]hat is your benchmark for success in Libya?
That last question is proceeded by a statement that unfortunately is hard to argue with:
Because of the conflicting messages from the Administration and our coalition partners, there is a lack of clarity over the objectives of this mission, what our national security interests are, and how it fits into our overarching policy for the Middle East.
Boehner ends that statement saying, “The American people deserve answers to these questions.” I agree. No one was happy when it looked like the United States was going to ignore the genocidal threats of Moammar Gaddafi. Now no one is happy because of the way the United States has gone about trying to stop him.
There are no plans yet for the president to address the nation. But when he does — and I pray that it’s soon — he must explain clearly why we find ourselves in a third conflict in a third Muslim country as freedom’s fire burns in other nations across the Middle East.