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Tag Archives: United States
Timidity can cost lives, in war and in diplomacy. The United States and Nato were right to intervene in Libya this spring. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces were at the gates of Benghazi, hours away from overrunning the city and brutally ending the Libyan people’s struggle for freedom from Gaddafi’s 40-year dictatorship.
Libyans will forever remember the US leadership during their hour of great need. They and our allies are watching the debate between President Barack Obama and Congress over who has authority to authorise this mission — which the House has declined to give the president — and whether the president can continue military support.
But separate from the war powers debate, the president could give the Transitional National Council much of what it needs with one diplomatic stroke. The power to recognise successor governments of foreign states lies solely with the executive branch. The president has already recognised the TNC as “the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people”.
France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Qatar, the UAE, Jordan and others have given some level of recognition. When the president’s top diplomat for the Middle East, US Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Feltman, visited Benghazi this month, he found a sense of joy, opportunity and gratitude to the United States unlike anything he had seen in his diplomatic career.
“The TNC seems sincere in its commitment to building an inclusive, democratic Libya that is a partner with us,” he wrote.
The State Department invited the TNC to open an office in Washington but noted in discussions this month that it would not be possible to provide access to the Libyan Embassy, its vehicles or its small bank account because Gaddafi has asked that they be preserved for his regime. US officials acknowledge that Gaddafi forces have burned down the US Embassy in Tripoli. Yet the administration continues to stall on providing full diplomatic recognition to the TNC.
Why wait? Full diplomatic recognition would, first and foremost, legitimise the struggle of the TNC on behalf of the Libyan people against the Gaddafi regime. It would strip Gaddafi of any vestige of legal or diplomatic status to claim he is Libya’s rightful leader; would allow the TNC to oversee the $34 billion (Dh125 billion) in Gaddafi assets frozen in the US (funds that really belong to the Libyan people); and would reassure the international community that the TNC, not Gaddafi’s regime, has the right to transfer valid title to Libya’s natural resources. The latter are critical to taking away Gaddafi’s financial advantage.… Read More
In his July 3 op-ed, “Should we kill Gaddafi?” Evan Thomas repeats one of the great canards relating to assassination when he asserts that, in 1986, “the United States bombed Gaddafi’s tent in Libya, killing some of his relatives.”
I was a Defense Department legal adviser for the planning of these airstrikes. Col. Moammar Gaddafi never was the target… Read More
It LOOKED,for a moment, like a return to the days of European interventionism. For the first time since Suez, Britain and France led an intervention in the Middle East. And unlike the disaster in Egypt in 1956, the action in Libya of 2011 was supported by America and by part of the Arab world too.
America was visibly reluctant to get involved, let alone lead the action. And, having helped to knock out Libya’s air defences and conduct some of the initial air-to-ground strikes, it pulled back from the front-line operations. But America’s role remains essential, not least in providing air-to-air refuelling, as well as intelligence and reconnaissance for the European allies.
The war in Libya, far from heralding a new era of European activism, has once again highlighted the limits of Europe’s military power, as Robert Gates pointed out today in his valedictory speech in Brussels. He is not the first American defence secretary to complain about low, often declining, defence spending in Europe (The Economist recently ran an interesting chart). Nor is it the first time Mr Gates himself has bemoaned the weakness of European allies. Last year he said the “pacification” of Europe, at first a great achievement, had gone too far and posed a threat to Western security. But his comments today were delivered with the sharpness of a man who knows he is at the end of his career and no longer needs to beg for favours. The speech is worth reading in full. But here is one passage that should make Europeans cringe.
To be sure, at the outset, the NATO Libya mission did meet its initial military objectives – grounding Qaddafi’s air force and degrading his ability to wage offensive war against his own citizens. And while the operation has exposed some shortcomings caused by underfunding, it has also shown the potential of NATO, with an operation where Europeans are taking the lead with American support. However, while every alliance member voted for Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission. Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t. The military capabilities simply aren’t there.
In particular, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets are lacking that would allow more allies to be involved and make an impact. The most advanced fighter aircraft are little use if allies do not have the means to identify, process, and strike targets as part of an integrated campaign. To run the air campaign, the NATO air operations centre in Italy required a major augmentation of targeting specialists, mainly from the US, to do the job – a “just in time” infusion of personnel that may not always be available in future contingencies. We have the spectacle of an air operations centre designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150. Furthermore, the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the US, once more, to make up the difference.
As well as a paucity of European military resources, NATO faces two other dangers, Mr Gates said. One is the passing of his generation of American leaders, like himself, for whom the security of Europe was the over-riding pre-occupation of their careers. The second is that America, itself under pressure to cut defence spending to curb high deficits and debt, might soon give up on Europe: if the European taxpayers do not want to pay to preserve their own security, why should Americans shoulder the burden? Only five of the 28 NATO allies meet NATO’s recommendation that countries should spend at least 2% of GDP on defence: America, Britain, France, Greece and Albania. Today America’s key security interests are in the Middle East and in Asia. Europe will be the obvious place for America to cut expensive overseas commitments.… Read More
President Obama’s missteps on the War Powers Act have created a dangerous leadership vacuum at home and abroad.
Suddenly and sadly, the Libyan war may be one of the most consequential adventures in recent American history.
US secretary of state says Libyan leader’s warning that he will attack Europe will not deter Nato or affect its air campaign
Nato will not be deterred from its military action in Libya by Muammar Gaddafi’s threats to take the war to Europe, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has said.
Clinton brushed aside Gaddafi’s… Read More
With Republicans and Democrats alike split, confusion reigns over two crucial issues: war powers and R2P. It’s time for clarity
Last week, as the US Senate picked up the Libya debate where the House of Representatives left off, it was apparent that Libya has created a political and moral quagmire for America. At the crux of continuing House debate is the legality of the invasion, given lack of congressional approval and its war powers implications, and the morality of the invasion, given a democratic imperative vis-à-vis the “responsibility to protect” (R2P). Needless to say, reporters scrambled to present House consensus after the votes on 24 June.
The first vote was clear. The House voted overwhelmingly against authorisation for the Libya invasion. This is an important gesture from a war-weary Congress, especially in light of lack of congressional approval in the past 90 days, which is required under the 1973 War Powers Resolution. For some in Congress, this vote was about taking legislative power back and reaffirming the checks and balances instated in the War Powers Act. For others, this was purely a political move, tapping into an increasingly tangible anti-war sentiment and growing discontent about the billions of dollars spent abroad, while American infrastructure crumbles. Republicans, interestingly enough, are becoming more anti-war – in part, because that is where the American public is headed.
The second vote, however, was less clear, with some media outlets reporting that the House voted to continue funding the Libyan operation. This was a misread of the House vote. The bill, had it passed, would cut funding for some US operations in Libya, but not all – allowing the refuelling of bombers, identification and selection of targets, guidance of munitions, logistical support and operational planning to continue.
It left congressmen and women in a bind: cut some funding, but support the continuation of an unauthorised war, or vote against any continuation whatsoever? While a House majority voted against this bill because it was too weak, failed to cut off all funds, or implicitly authorised the intervention, some congressmen and women supported it, concerned that press would interpret “no” votes as a desire to keep funding the war. The “nays” had it, ending debate until the Defence Appropriations bill comes up next week, wherein Representative Dennis Kucinich will offer his amendment to prohibit funds from being used to fund US military operations in Libya. A far clearer mandate for Congress to consider, this will ultimately test congressional mettle.… Read More
The U.S. Senate is taking up the question about whether President Barack Obama is acting within the law by ordering U.S. involvement in the NATO attack on Libya. On the Senate floor, Florida’s junior U.S. Senator Marco Rubio blamed Obama for how NATO’s war on Libya is going.
“Only when the Gadhafi mercenaries were on the outskirts of Bengazi 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 he was finally 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 that 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.”
While criticizing Obama’s handling of the war on Libya, Rubio supports continued U.S. involvement. He said there are four things the U.S. should do from here, including attempting to assassinate Moammar Gadhafi.
“This is not about hawks versus doves or interventionist versus isolationist or any of the other labels that people throw around here. 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 upon what is in the best interests of our country. And here’s the reality; whether you agree with it or not the United States is engaged in a fight and it is a fight that has only 2 possible endings. It can end with the fall of a brutal, criminal, anti-American dictator or it can end with the dictator’s victory over our allies and us. I would suggest that given these 2 choices the best choice for America is the first one. The fall of the anti-American dictator.”
“So going forward how can we do this? Well 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 Gadhafi regime and get rid of this guy once and for all and as soon as possible. And then, fourth, we should go home and allow the Libyan people to build a new nation and a new future for themselves.”
Meanwhile in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a top State Department lawyer says Obama is acting legally with respect to Libya. Harold Koh said the war on Libya does not require congressional authorization within 60 days because it doesn’t fall within the 1973 War Powers Resolution because the military’s role is limited.… Read More
Facing the press for the first time since a bipartisan congressional rebuke, President Obama on Wednesday defended his handling of the conflict in Libya, dismissing as “noise” legal and constitutional questions about whether he should have sought congressional approval to extend the U.S. military mission enforcing a no-fly zone over the North African nation.
Arguing that American support for the NATO mission is protecting civilians from forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Mr. Obama chided critics for focusing on procedural issues and said the welfare of the Libyan people is his paramount concern.
“We have engaged in a limited operation to help a lot of people against one of the worst tyrants in the world, somebody who nobody should want to defend,” Mr. Obama told reporters in a wide-ranging news conference in the White House’s East Room. “And this suddenly becomes the cause celebre for some folks in Congress? Come on.”
“A lot of this fuss is politics,” he said.
Mr. Obama said anti-Gadhafi forces are benefiting from momentum more than three months after the bombing campaign started, even as the autocratic leader clings to power. Rebels said this week that they had advanced to within 50 miles of Col. Gadhafi’s stronghold of Tripoli with the help of arms that were airdropped by the French military.
Congressional critics contend that Mr. Obama has gone far beyond what he promised because American warplanes and unmanned drones are still striking at Libyan targets. They also say he has ignored deadlines set by the 1973 War Powers Resolution to seek congressional authorization as the campaign grinds on.
Lawmakers in both parties have bristled at the administration’s claim thatMr. Obama is in compliance with the law because American troops are not in tremendous danger and the U.S. effort is small when compared with other NATO countries.
“I think you’ve undermined the credibility of this administration. I think you’ve undermined the integrity of the War Powers Act. And I think by taking this very narrow approach, you’ve done a great disservice to our country,” Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, told Harold Koh, theState Department’s top legal adviser, at a contentious hearing Tuesday.… Read More