CBSN

Obama and Libya: A "hidden-hand" presidency?

As the administration walks a political tightrope explaining its role in Libya, has a schism formed between President Obama's rhetoric and the mission's end goal?

Mr. Obama and the administration have repeatedly said U.S. policy is to remove Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi from power, while the United Nations defines its mission as strictly humanitarian.

In an interview with CBS News political analyst John Dickerson Friday, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns noted contradictions between the two objectives and mounting confusion on the definition of success in Libya.

"The problem with this operation all along, and its not just a U.S. problem, it's coalition-wide, is there's been a contradiction between the rhetoric and the fuzziness of what the end state is," Burns, who served in the Bush administration, said.

Dickerson also discussed Mr. Obama's "risky" and "nuanced" message on Libya with his weekly politics roundtable, which included National Journal Group editorial director Ron Brownstein, the New York Times' White House correspondent Peter Baker and Al Arabiya Washington bureau chief Hisham Melhem.

"He doesn't want this to consume everything he's doing the way he felt President Bush got consumed in Iraq and Afghanistan," Baker said, noting that Mr. Obama was an "anti-war candidate now presiding over three wars."

Characterizing Mr. Obama's style as "hidden-hand presidency," Baker said the president's approach in Libya is "not new."

"In Afghanistan he's tripled the troops and you wouldn't know it because he's not out there talking about this all the time," Baker said.

"He is able to achieve a great deal of what he sets out to do, but not in a process that looks as though you have the president of the United States carving through the wilderness," Brownstein said.

In the Middle East, Brownstein said Obama has a "clear desire that we not be the fulcrum of the discussion," though Melhem countered the U.S. is "expected to play a role" by many in the region.

The panel pegged Mr. Obama as a "reluctant warrior," a role Melhem said could be "perceived overseas as weakness."

Dickerson and the roundtable also discussed 2012 politics and the one-year anniversary of Mr. Obama's health care reform law. Watch the full video above.