Another snazzy speech by the speechmaker in chief. Said all the right things. Hit all the right notes. Almost.

The problem with President Obama’s Monday night address to the nation about American involvement in Libya was basically the same problem that plagued his previous statements on the Libyan conflict: He laid out his philosophy, even his goal – helping to free Libyans from the clutches of dictator Moammar Gadhafi – but not his plan. If he has a plan.

Some folks are now talking about the “Obama doctrine,” as if the president had actually articulated a definitive policy for U.S. intervention in foreign turmoil. But all he really did Monday night was reiterate what president after president has said and acted upon: When people around the world are in trouble, especially when they are fighting to be free, the United States has a moral obligation to help.

“Sometimes,” Obama said, “the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security – responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.”

Inspiring words. Encouraging words for the world. But the words don’t add up to a “doctrine” or even a policy.

By the time the president finished qualifying his pledge to help those in need the Obama doctrine had more holes in it than the allied forces’ battle plan in Libya, where Gadhafi unleashed a ferocious tank-and-rocket assault on rebels who looked in vain for air support from the international coalition that Obama told us had the Libyan government on the run.

As the president described his philosophy, the Obama doctrine would require that the United States help those who are yearning for freedom – except when it’s not in our vital interest to do so, or when we don’t want to, or when the international community doesn’t want us to.

A news story in The New York Times quoted Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East peace negotiator for the State Department, who characterized the Obama doctrine like this: “If we can, if there’s a moral case, if we have allies, and if we can transition out and not get stuck, we’ll move to help.

“The Obama doctrine is the ‘hedge your bets and make sure you have a way out’ doctrine.”

It might not be a bad approach, all things considered, but it doesn’t begin to tell us when the president will commit the American people to intervening, what the nature of the intervention might be, how long it will last or what outcome would be expected.

And so it goes in Libya.

Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe pointed out that the president’s speech “failed to answer the question of how our current involvement in Libya will end and how long it will take to get there.”

Snowe and other members of our state’s congressional delegation have consistently raised questions about Obama’s policy – or lack of policy – in Libya. We urge them to keep pushing for answers.

If Obama’s speech was intended to clarify the president’s intentions with regard to Libya – or with regard to similar situations that will surely present themselves in the coming weeks, months and years – then the speech was a failure. If it was intended to be just another snazzy speech by the speechmaker in chief, well, we’ll give it a thumbs-up. Almost.