If President Barack Obama's address to the nation the other night was meant to keep the American people up to date on the situation in the Middle East, it missed its mark, leaving us in a state of confusion.
For starters, the president implicitly limited America's proven exceptionalism. We may be exceptional, he admits, but not in his opinion nearly enough to maintain our lead position as protectors of the rights of all people everywhere.
Why not? Why can't we remain the world's No. 1 champion and protector of all mankind's right to be free? Why can't we challenge leaders in such nations as Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain and demand that they recognize the natural rights of their citizens?
Mr. Obama can't seem to make up his mind about our ultimate goal in Libya. He insists that we are not seeking regime change in Libya, just that we want Gadhafi out of there. He appears not to understand that wanting to oust Gadhafi from power in Libya is the same as wanting to effect regime change there.
We might wonder what would happen if — despite all our efforts in bombing targets in Libya and arming the rebels seeking to oust him — Gadhafi manages to remain in power. He's proven pretty adept in hanging on to the reins of power in the past, and it is reasonable to ask why we should not expect him to do so now.
And should he do so, what would be U.S. policy in dealing with the leader of this moderately oil-rich nation? Surely we couldn't simply ignore his presence as a leader of a sovereign nation in the heart of the Middle East.
Like it nor not, we would have to find some way of co-existing with him just as we co-existed with the Soviet evil empire until it collapsed.
U.S. planes have been bombing Gadhafi's forces. We are giving arms to the rebels seeking to oust him from power, ignoring the fact that many of these rebels are the same people who have been fighting and killing members of our armed forces in Iraq. They are not our friends. They are our sworn enemies. And we're arming them and hoping that they will achieve power in Libya despite their proven hostility to the United States.
Are we nuts?
None of this makes sense. Obama's presidency thus far has been at the very least confused, especially in connection with his Middle East policy. He does not seem to grasp the realities of our situation vis-à-vis Libya. He seems to lack any long-range understanding of how our muddled policy there will turn out.
Most disturbing has been the apparent change in our relationship with Israel, which faces a whole new set of threats since the revolt in Egypt and the change of leadership there.
As I have said previously, Gadhafi must go. But to make that happen in a way that will benefit America, President Obama needs to have a coherent plan, and he must be able to communicate the "big picture" to the American people.
One is forced to wonder if this nation can survive intact for the final two years of his term in office.
In Latin, the word is "oremus" — it means "Let us pray."
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of "The New Reagan Revolution" (St. Martin's Press, 2011). He is the founder and chairman of The Reagan Group and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visit his website at www.reagan.com, or e-mail comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.
© Mike Reagan