Top Navy officer hesitant to predict Libyan future

March 9, 2011

CNOU.S. Navy Admiral Gary Roughead lived in Libya as a child before Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969, and says the experience only underscored how difficult it can be to predict the region’s future.

“Having spent some time in the Middle East, to include actually living in Libya, I am always hesitant to predict what the future may be there,” Roughhead, the Chief of  Naval Operations told a Senate committee Tuesday. “It’s still a very uncertain period that bears watching.”

Roughead lived in Libya in the 1960s when his father worked for Standard Oil, the company that later became Exxon. He left to attend high school at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1969, just months before Gaddafi overthrew Libya’s King Idris. He returned to the country during his college years at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Roughead said it was important to carefully think through possible U.S. military action in Libya before moving ahead.

The Obama administration has faced sharp criticism in Congress for being too cautious over the turmoil in Libya but has signaled it will not be rushed into decisions that could suck the already strained U.S. military into another conflict.

Western allies remain divided over whether to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, but the Obama administration has cautioned that any foreign military intervention in Libya would require international backing.

Roughead said it would be critical to understand issues such as basing of airplanes to be involved in patrolling the skies above Libya, restrictions on the use of force and other factors. He also reiterated that air strikes would be needed first to destroy Libya’s anti-aircraft defenses.

“We’ve done no-fly zones before. And there is significant infrastructure that backs them up, whether it’s naval- or land-based,” he said. “There are a lot of complexities.”

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy

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