Republicans Call on Obama to Explain Military Action in Libya

House Speaker John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Congressional Republicans called on President Barack Obama to more fully explain the goal of the allied military action in Libya and how it will be accomplished.

“Before any further military commitments are made, the administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved,” House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in a statement yesterday.

The U.S. and allied forces hit Libya’s air-defense systems and created a no-fly zone over the country, according to Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The United Nations Security Council on March 17 authorized the use of “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians.

“With respect to the actions that we’ve taken right now and the military actions it is absolutely important to have great clarity on what that is and I think that we have done that,” Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security advisor, told reporters yesterday. “We look forward to working quite directly with Speaker Boehner and all the members of Congress who have responsibility here on this as we go forward.”

Waited Too Long

Arizona Senator John McCain, senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he supported the strike though he believed Obama waited too long.

“I think with significant air assets, we can have a really big impact,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I’m glad we are finally doing something,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a member of the same committee, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “I don’t know what finally got the president to act, but I’m very worried that we’re taking the backseat rather than a leadership role.”

Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. needs to learn more about the opposition to Qaddafi.

“We really have not discovered who it is in Libya that we are trying to support,” Lugar said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” show. “Obviously, the people who are against Qaddafi, but who?”

“We had better get this straight from the beginning, or there’s going to be a situation in which war lingers on, country after country, situation after situation, all of them on a humane basis, saving people,” Lugar said.

Limited Mission

Mullen yesterday described the mission as “limited” and said the U.S. will pass the leadership of the mission to coalition members within a few days. He declined to speculate on whether it would end only with Qaddafi’s ouster.

“How this ends from the political standpoint, I just can’t say,” Mullen said on CNN. “I think the pressure will continue to build on him.”

Vice Admiral William Gortney, at a briefing later at the Pentagon, told reporters that Qaddafi was not on the targeting list of the coalition. “We are not going after Qaddafi,” he said, adding it was possible Qaddafi would be hit if he visited a military installation.

The turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East, triggered by the revolt that ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia on Jan. 14, led to the removal of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, as well as protests in Saudi Arabia and Syria, and an uprising against the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said on NBC yesterday that the U.S. has an interest in demonstrating “to Tunisians, to Egyptians, to others who are moving towards this awakening that the rest of the world is not going to stand by while people are slaughtered by somebody who’s lost all legitimacy to be able to govern.”

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