I advocated for a no-fly zone over Libya on both humanitarian grounds and also because Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi remained a terrorist leader. In addition, a massive refugee flight of armed Libyans from Benghazi might destabilize neighboring Egypt should Libya’s second largest city have fallen to Qaddafi’s tanks and troops. Obama also set a poor precedent by justifying action on humanitarian grounds only. As in Iraq, humanitarian grounds should be a consideration but not the only one. National security must always come first.
I found it noxious—and said so at the time on the Bill Bennett show—that President Obama would turn to the United Nations before he approached the U.S. Congress to legitimize American participation. I certainly understand Congress’ frustration. But it is dangerous to score political points in a way which might allow Qaddafi to benefit.
I also am frustrated by Obama’s leadership from behind. Recently, I crossed the Atlantic on an American aircraft carrier. While opinions about U.S. entanglement in Libya ranged the gambit, some of the less discreet pilots expressed frustration they were not able to do their jobs to the fullest: If only they could operate non-stop for 48 hours and provide Qaddafi with a bit of shock-and-awe, they felt they could accomplish the mission rather than have it drag on endlessly. President Obama and his advisers appear too detached from reality: They have no sense of the importance of momentum.
More importantly, Republicans should not simply use national security as a political football. If the United States and NATO cease operations against Libya, we will not simply revert to the status quo ante. Qaddafi will be out for revenge and, as he did with Lockerbie, he will not hesitate to embrace terrorism to try to exact it. I’ve used the analogy before, but when you have a hornet’s nest in your yard, there are two good strategies and one bad one: Either leave it alone or get rid of it; never whack it a few times and then stand around amidst the angry hornets. If the Republicans curtail operations in Libya without any plan or indeed care for the future, then they will guarantee a much greater threat to national security. Whether it’s good politics or not is not my concern. It’s simply irresponsible.
If they want to go after Obama on Libya, they need to find a proxy. They might hold up funding for something else, or slow roll action on certain nominations. But they should not play politics with our military.