Only 17 percent of Americans see President Barack Obama as a strong and decisive military leader, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the United States and its allies began bombing Libya.
Nearly half of those polled view Obama as a cautious and consultative commander in chief, and more than a third see him as indecisive in military matters.
Obama was widely criticized in 2009 for his months-long consultations with senior aides and military chiefs on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. Critics called it dithering, but he said such a big decision required careful deliberation. He eventually dispatched 30,000 more troops.
But Obama is facing mounting discontent among opposition Republicans and from within his own Democratic Party over the fuzzy aims of the U.S.-led mission in Libya and the lack of a clearly spelled-out exit strategy for U.S. forces.
If the Libya mission becomes a foreign policy mess, mixed with perceptions Obama is a weak military leader, it could spell trouble for him in the 2012 presidential election.
The poll also found that 60 percent of Americans support the United States and its allies bombing Libya to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.
NATO nears deal to take command
NATO neared agreement on taking command of allied military operations in Libya on Thursday, but its warplanes failed to stop tanks re-entering the western town of Misrata and besieging its main hospital.
Turkey said NATO members had settled four days of wrangling over the command and aims of the campaign, which would be transferred from the United States to the Western military alliance within one or two days.
“Compromise has been reached in principle in a very short time,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.