Just when you think the president can’t get more incoherent with regard to the aims of the Libya war, he tops himself. The Associated Press reports:

President Barack Obama said Monday the United States favors the ouster of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi but the international military effort has a more limited goal of establishing a no-fly zone over Libya and protecting civilians against massacre by forces loyal to the longtime ruler.

Obama said the United States would transfer leadership of the military operation to other, unnamed participants within a “matter of days, not weeks,” but he declined to provide a more precise timetable.

“Obviously, the situation is evolving on the ground, and how quickly this transfer takes place will be determined by the recommendation of our commanding officers that the first phase of the mission has been completed,” Obama said.

Got that? No? Neither would anyone else who is trying to take Obama’s comments as something other than cover for a goal that our multinational “partners” don’t share.

Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies e-mailed me Monday evening, “It seems to me that the mission, as defined until now, is to maintain a very awkward status quo. Without a clear mission of either (a) helping the opposition forces gain the upper hand, or (b) dislodging Qadhafi from power, we will be left with a divided Libya. Tripoli and the Western territories will remain under Qadhafi’s rule while the East will be ruled by the provisional Benghazi government. This is not a recipe for long-term stability.”

Moreover, this sort of wishy-washy positioning is not likely to endear us to other Middle East nations, such as Bahrain, that the United States is attempting to influence.

As others have pointed out, Obama risks repeating the errors of Bush. Not George W., but George H.W. Bush. He had the opportunity to topple Saddam Hussein and did not, in deference to his international partners and at the strong urging of Gen. Colin Powell. It was arguably the worst decision of his presidency, an error that had to be rectified at great cost in American lives and treasure by Bush 43.

The left pronounces this equivocation by Obama as a good thing. Hright-turne’s not like that bellicose George W. Bush, they tell us. Nonsense. Equivocation is for fickle schoolgirls and Shakespearean tragic figures (who invariably suffer for it). A commander in chief’s value is in setting clearly defined goals on which the public, allies and Congress can agree. And it generally helps in convincing the enemy to give up. By contrast, Obama has put Gaddafi in the driver’s seat. It’s generally not a good idea to empower your enemy in such a fashion. (How loudly do you think they are laughing in Moscow, Tehran and Beijing?)