WASHINGTON -- Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) questioned President Barack Obama's strategy in Libya on Thursday, arguing that the United States may suffer from the same sort of "mission creep" that it did in Afghanistan.
In an interview with "The Gallow Show," a radio show in Jackson, Miss., Barbour criticized Obama's leadership on Libya. The White House has stressed the short-term timetable for Libya operations and humanitarian imperatives for intervention, but Barbour said the president's ability to inspire decisive action has been lacking.
"[S]ince World War II, the world has looked to America for leadership," Barbour said. "But we haven’t provided leadership in this administration. In fact, the Obama administration’s position has been to say, you know, we’re just one the boys, so we’re not going to try to be the leader. And we see that when you don’t have strong leadership from the strongest country in the world, that everybody else scatters out and breaks up."
More broadly, Barbour has recently distinguished himself from other potential 2012 GOP candidates by advancing a less interventionist view of foreign policy than is typically associated with the modern Republican Party. In a recent speech in Iowa, he voiced doubts about continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, asking, "What is our mission? How many al Qaeda are in Afghanistan? ... Is that a 100,000-man Army mission? I don't think our mission should be to think we're going to make Afghanistan an Ireland or an Italy ..."
During Thursday's radio show, Barbour asked whether the United States should be in Libya at all, after mentioning Afghanistan.
"The other question though, is what are we doing in Libya?" he said. "I mean we have to be careful in my mind, about getting into nation-building exercises. Whether it’s in Libya or somebody else, or somewhere else."
"We’ve been in Afghanistan 10 years," he continued. "And the question to me in Afghanistan is not whether we should do whatever it takes to win the war on terror, because we should, whatever it takes, but there are only 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan according to our own government. So have we suffered from mission creep over there that requires us to have 100,000 soldiers on the ground? I’m not saying do this, do that, what I am saying is we need to step back and take a look at what we’re doing and see if we got the resources there, is all that necessary for our mission to be accomplished.”
Last week, Barbour also gave a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Chicago during which he questioned the entire notion of "nation-building," saying America had to be careful not to have its mission be to "make Libya look like Luxembourg."
"At the end of the day, we might have some role in Libya but it should not be to send American troops in there and knock heads and make Libya what we would like Libya to look like," he said in the speech. "Because it, no offense, is not ever going to look like what we'd like it."