One-third of Americans see Obama ‘dithering’ on military action

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Over one-third of Americans describe President Obama’s military leadership style as “dithering” and “indecisive,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday.

Respondents were asked, “Which best describes Obama’s leadership as Commander in Chief of the armed forces?” Forty-eight percent called his leadership style “cautious, consultative,” while just 17 percent termed it “strong, decisive.”

The question does not refer specifically to the president’s handling of the crisis in Libya, but was part of a questionnaire that asked respondents questions pertaining entirely to U.S. intervention in Libya. So while some of this sentiment might stem from the administration’s handling of Afghanistan or Iraq, it is likely prompted in large part by the president’s handling of the situation in Libya. Indeed, Obama has come under fire for committing U.S. manpower in Libya under the banner of a humanitarian mission, seemingly reneging on his pronouncement earlier this month that U.S. policy was to remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi from power.

If the situation in Libya does not end well and conclude quickly, the perception of Obama as ‘dithering’ could haunt him in the upcoming campaign season.

The poll found broad support among the American public for ousting the Libyan dictator: 79 percent of those polled agreed that “the US and its allies should seek to remove” Gaddafi. Like other polls on the subject, this one found that a majority of Americans – 60 percent – support U.S. intervention.

Respondents were also asked about what steps ought to be taken “if the air strikes fail to restrain” Gaddafi, an eventuality that commentators have begun to ponder as the timeline for U.S. involvement and leadership is discussed. Almost one-third said they were unsure as to the steps that should be taken, but there is clearly a strong aversion to the use of ground troops, even if this eventuality does materialize: only 7 percent said that U.S. and allied ground troops should be used. A quarter of respondents said U.N. peacekeeping troops should be used, and 23 percent favored increased air strikes.