March 23, 2011
On Disclosure, and Our War in Libya
The Obama White House is stepping up its outreach to policy hands on
Capitol Hill, as well as to outside foreign policy experts and
progressive allies, in a campaign to defend the president's decision to
launch military operations in Libya.
"This is a limited humanitarian intervention, not
war," White House Middle East strategist Dennis Ross, National Security
Council strategic planning official Derek Chollet, and two military
officials told a group of outside foreign policy experts invited to a
briefing at the White House Roosevelt Room Tuesday.
"We were looking at 'Srebrenica on steroids' —the
real or imminent possibility that up to a 100,000 people could be
massacred, and everyone would blame us for it," Ross explained,
according to the attendee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because
the administration is trying to keep its consultations private (though
the meeting was referenced in a tweet.)
The White House national security officials also
stressed that U.S.-led military operations in Libya would be
transitioning soon to an international coalition, in which the United
States would not be taking the lead.
"The president has made brutally clear to all of us that we are transitioning," Ross noted, according to the attendee.
Among those who attended the Tuesday White House
briefing were Center for American Progress Middle East expert Brian
Katulis, Center for Strategic and International Studies' Jon Alterman,
George Washington University Middle East expert Marc Lynch, the Center
for New American Security's Andrew Exum, and the New American
Foundation's Steve Clemons.
Laura Rozen is a friend of mine, but I can swear on SH 21-76 that I was not one of her sources here. I did not, for one, take copious enough notes to have provided the quotes that I read in the article, and if you don't believe me, you can check my fancy pants Moleskine for proof.
As a think tank researcher, I am occassionally asked to attend meetings with policy makers, and I, for one, am sure as heck not too important to decline an invitation from the White House. I almost never make reference to these meetings on the blog or in my other writings, because they are usually conducted strictly off-the-record, and since I still maintain a security clearance that I would like to keep, I try to not disclose information serving officials ask me not to disclose. That probably makes sense to most of you. To others, to whom it might strike as a little too clubby, take heart in the fact that on this issue, at least, I have been and continue to be more than a little critical of the way in which the Obama Administration has entered into this conflict.
I spent the day, in fact, reading and writing, and the book I was reading this afternoon was Gideon Rose's How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle. Marc Lynch has already noted that some of the common sense recommendations at the end of the book have not been closely followed when it comes to our intervention in Libya, and I will simply second that.
I did not ask any questions at the meeting yesterday, but at the end, I cornered a military officer who participated in the briefing and asked him the question whose answer continues to elude me regarding our intervention in Libya. Per the established groundrules, I will not share the officer's answer, but this was my question:
Could you clearly state for me, sir, the commander-in-chief's intent?