Where's Donald Rumsfeld when you need him? Once upon a time, the irrepressible former Defense Secretary insured his enshrinement in Barclay's Familiar Quotations with the line:
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
It was hilariously convoluted. As it happens, it also made some sense if you parsed it. Which puts it leagues ahead of the clarification offered by the White House's Ben Rhodes today concerning what America's policy in Libya actually is. In short, what he said was: "I know we said we were for regime change but we're actually not for it except of course for the fact that it is our primary objective."
But let me let him say it for you because the painful, verbose, circular logorrhea of it all really needs to be experienced to be understood.
Given the fact that there has been some reporting off of a quote from the gaggle, the quote that says 'they underscored their shared commitment of helping provide the people of Libya the opportunity to transform their country by installing a system of government that is democratic and responsive to the will of the people,' we're clarifying, as we've said repeatedly, that the effort of our military operation is not regime change, that as we actually say in this READOUT, it's the Libyan people who are going to make their determinations about the future. We support their aspirations, their democratic aspirations, and have stated that Gaddafi should go because he's lost their confidence.
So, let's go to the chalk board and break that down, shall we? What had been said was that the administration was seeking to help the people of Libya "transform their country" by installing a new system of government. Now, Rhodes was explaining that the "effort" of the intervention ... by which he presumably meant the goal of the effort ... was definitely not regime change. That's not something we would do. In fact, noted Rhodes, we've been saying it over and over again. No, really, seriously, we would never support regime change. But just so we all would understand better, he went on to "clarify" that our effort is instead to support them in realizing their democratic objectives. The core objective of which is to replace the country's government. Which is why we have repeatedly stated that Qaddafi has got to go.
Oh, now I see. Regime change is not our goal. We are just intervening with the collective firepower of NATO in order to help the Libyans get rid of Qaddafi. Who really has to go. That's much clearer. Thank you very much.
David Rothkopf is the CEO and Editor-at-Large of Foreign Policy. His new book, "Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government and the Reckoning that Lies Ahead" is due out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux on March 1.