Tales from the Trail

Lugar warns U.S. against war in Libya

March 9, 2011

momarIn recent days  some U.S. senators have been urging President Obama to consider military intervention to help Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gaddafi.

Not Richard Lugar.

The top Republican on the Senate foreign relations committee said little  while a senior member of his own party, John McCain,  repeatedly urged the United States to pursue setting up a no-fly zone over Libya.

On Sunday Democrat John Kerry, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, suggested that Washington might want to  ”crater”  runways used by Gaddafi’s forces.

On Tuesday, Lugar issued a strong warning against U.S. intervention in what he called Libya’s civil war.

“The United States should not, in my view, launch military intervention into yet another Muslim country, without thinking long and hard about the consequences and implications,” Lugar said in a statement.
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“ If a no-fly zone doesn’t  stop the street-to-street fighting, are we prepared to escalate further, to put boots on the ground? Would that involve taking control of the country? Would we be obligated to stay until democracy is established?”

Such tasks would further stress a U.S. military already stretched thin by long deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, he warned. It could also create “anti-American fervor” in the country and the region, and impose new costs on the strained U.S. budget.

“Who is it we want to help?” Lugar asked.  He said the Americans did not really know who is fighting on either side.

Americans should not hesitate to help if their objectives are clear and forces is needed, Lugar said.

But given recent U.S. experience in  Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Somalia, where a U.S.  humanitarian mission went wrong in the 1990s, “the burden of proof lies on those calling for military intervention to demonstrate that doing so would be in the United States’ national interest,” Lugar declared.

And: A major mlitary action to support anti-Gaddafi forces  would require a declaration of war by Congress, Lugar said.  Something for his fellow senators, as well as President Obama, to consider.

Photo Credits: Reuters/Gleb Garanich (Lugar at news conference in  Kiev, August 29, 2005); Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah (Gaddafi  at a hotel in Tripoli March 8, 2011)

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