Fighting for Florida
Over the last two weeks, we’ve had a deepening divide between the White House and Congress over Libya. It’s a clash that’s been both completely avoidable and also, quite frankly, counterproductive.
First, let me say that for the life of me, I do not understand why this administration did not bring this issue to the Congress from the outset. In the early days of the Libyan rebellion, the President should have come to the Congress, informed us that an armed rebellion had arisen against Libya’s anti-American, criminal dictator. That the rebels were asking for our assistance in establishing a no-fly zone over Libyan air space so that they could take care of the dictator themselves. And that with our support, he intended to work with our allies to establish such a no-fly zone.
If this President had done that then, I believe he would have found support here and that, by the way, Qaddafi would have been gone a long time ago.
But instead, this administration waited. And while it did, Qaddafi reestablished momentum and began to carry out a new level of atrocities unprecedented even by his murderous standards. And then, only when the Qaddafi mercenaries were on the outskirts of Benghazi threatening to massacre thousands of innocent civilians, did the President finally agree to participate.
But even that was botched. First, we ceded most of the operation over to our NATO allies. And God bless them for trying, but they do not have the military capability to finish the job.
Second, the President never consulted Congress, again ignoring a co-equal branch of government unnecessarily.
And then, when finally he was pressed under the War Powers Act, he claimed that the United States is not involved in “hostilities” in Libya.
Why we have reached this point is something history will have to explain. Suffice it to say that it didn’t have to be this way. And the reason why it is, is 100 percent the result of the President’s failure to lead.
Now, with all that being said, we need to decide what to do next. This is not about Hawks versus Doves, or Interventionists versus Isolationists, or any of the other labels that people throw around here.
And this cannot be about how upset we are at the President for botching the handling of this matter.
What we need to do next should be decided based on what is in the best interest of our country.
And here is the reality: Whether you agree with it or not, the United States is engaged in a fight. And it is a fight that only has two possible endings.
It can end with the fall of a brutal, criminal, anti-American dictator.
Or it could end in the dictator’s victory over our allies and us.
I would suggest that, given these two choices, the best choice for America is the first one, the fall of the anti-American dictator.
So going forward, how can we do we do this?
First, we should officially recognize the Transitional National Council.
Second, we should provide additional resources to support the council, including access to Libya’s frozen funds here in the United States. And by the way, we should also make sure that those frozen funds are used to reimburse us, the United States, for the cost of the operation.
Third, we should intensify strike operations to target the Qaddafi regime and get rid of this guy once and for all, and as soon as possible.
Then, fourth, we should go home and allow the Libyan people to build a new nation and a new future for themselves.
Now I understand that, rightfully so, many here in Congress and across America are weary of more war and more overseas engagement during a time of severe budget restraints here at home.
But the fact remains that whether you agree with it or not, we are already involved. We are already involved in Libya. We have already spent a considerable amount of money there. And we’re going to let all of this go to waste? Are we prepared to walk away and get stuck with a lose-lose proposition? We spent all the money on Libya, and Qaddafi is still around.
It is in our national interest to get this over with already.
This afternoon, the Foreign Relations Committee will meet to consider a resolution on this matter. I am concerned that rather than push the President to do what is necessary to bring this conflict to a successful conclusion, some are pushing to restrict our campaign.
No matter how you may feel about the original decision, we must now deal with the situation as it now stands. And the bottom line here is that if we withdraw from our air war over Libya, it will lengthen the conflict, it will increase its cost to American taxpayers, and raise doubts about U.S. leadership among friends and foes alike.
Here is what withdrawal will mean in real terms:
1. The coalition would quickly unravel. Qaddafi would emerge victorious, even more dangerous and determined to seek his revenge through terrorism against the countries in NATO and the Arab League that tried and failed to overthrow him.
2. We would see a bloodbath inside Libya. This killer Qaddafi will unleash unspeakable horrors against the Libyan people. And the ripple effects will be felt all across the Middle East. For example, the pro-democracy movements in places like Iran and Syria would conclude that they too might be abandoned. And the dictators they oppose would be emboldened.
3. Our disengagement would irreparably harm the NATO alliance.
I fully understand, I do, the frustrations at the way the President has handled this situation. But the answer to any problem is not to make it worse.
Some may think that what we do here this afternoon, or later when we return, on the resolution is largely symbolic. Simply intended to "send a message" to the White House.
And yes, it will send a message to the President, but it will also send a message to Qaddafi and those around him.
And here is the message that I fear we may send: that the coalition is breaking and that Qaddafi’s regime might yet win. I know that’s not anyone’s intention around here, but it is the very real risk we run.
There is a better, more pragmatic way forward.
Let’s pass a resolution backing these activities.
For those frustrated with the President’s failure to adequately make the case for our involvement, our job in Congress is to push the administration to do a better job explaining our effort in Libya.
Here is the good news: The tide in Libya appears to be turning against Qaddafi.
And at the same time, the Qaddafi regime has been shaken by further defections and collapsing international support.
Libya is at a critical juncture. And for the United States, there is only one acceptable outcome: The removal of the Qaddafi regime and, with it, the opportunity for the Libyan people to build a free and democratic society.