President Obama will no doubt give an eloquent speech tonight announcing the Obama version of "mission accomplished" in Libya. He will avoid the word "war," and say we have established a no-fly zone, prevented a slaughter of the innocents, and are turning things over to others.
He will talk at length about having forged a coalition, brought in the Arab world, and how we are fostering a new dawn of freedom in the Middle East.
He will end up making it sound as if our role in Libya was justified, it was a success, and it's over. No U.S. casualties, no boots on the ground. In short, he'll lay out what I can only call the Obama Doctrine of Limited War -- limited objectives, limited forces, limited role, limited time.
But journalists shouldn't let it end there, as if the military action in Libya was slam dunk and we've returned to the bench to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines.
The American press corps should follow up tomorrow with the questions they were taught to ask in journalism school: Mr. President give us the "Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?" Here's my take on the questions that still cry out for answers:
Who are we fighting for and with? Who are the rebels? Who are our allies in the fight? Who are we turning things over to?
What are our goals? To kill Col. Muammar Qaddafi? Remove him from office? Keep him in office but change his policies? What if he escapes to another country?
Why Libya? It is a vital U.S. interest (there are conflicting reports about that)? Is it now U.S. policy to intervene militarily in another country’s civil war to protect rebels? If so, it’s a new mission.
If we’re in Libya, why not Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Ivory Coast? Iran? All of them are of greater strategic interest to the U.S. or have potentially already seen greater casualties.
When does the U.S. involvement in the military action in Libya end, and what is our exit strategy? Passing command over to NATO is not an exit strategy, it’s a distinction without a difference. Saying our role is over and it's now up to others means we've put our forces in harms way but we're not responsible for how it turns out.
How does this advance U.S. interests? While we’re distracted in Libya, are we taking our eye off the ball in Egypt where early elections favor the Muslim Brotherhood? Or Afghanistan where we’re getting bogged down in a war we can’t win? Or Iraq where our gains are still fragile and threatened by early U.S. withdrawal?
I don't have a crystal ball to see what the president will say Monday night. But watching Secretaries Gates and Clinton on the "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation," and "This Week" on Sunday was revelatory. They think our role in Libya is drawing to a close, and it was a success. Somebody needs to ask the tough questions.
Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com's DefCon 3. She is a Distinguished Adviser to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. She wrote Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s November 1984 "Principles of War Speech" which laid out the Weinberger Doctrine. Be sure to watch "K.T." every Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET on FoxNews.com's "DefCon3" already one of the Web's most watched national security programs. For more, visit ktmcfarland.com.