Bachmann, GOP 2012 hopefuls face conundrum on Libya opposition

By Luke Johnson
Monday, August 22, 2011 at 8:44 am

Muammar Qaddafi

With Libyan rebels easily overtaking Tripoli and the end of the Qaddafi regime all but imminent, GOP 2012 hopefuls who opposed the Libya intervention will have to decide whether or not to cheer the apparent success after months of what appeared to be a stalemate.

Alexander Burns of Politico notes that former Pennsylvania Democratic governor Ed Rendell, an MSNBC contributor, said on Morning Joe of President Obama, “everyone mocked him, said it wouldn’t work.”

Republicans hoping to get the party’s nod to run against Obama — including Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman — opposed the Libyan intervention by NATO. While Bachmann agreed that Libya would be better without Qaddafi, she opposed military intervention.

“We don’t know who the opposition is,” she said in March. “We have no idea, and no intelligence community will tell you that we know who the opposition is.

“For us to go in with American soldiers on the ground, right now, would be a mistake. We should not go that route. The same with arming — I think that would be a mistake right now.”

In response to the president’s speech a few days later, Bachmann stated that “President Obama is taking sides with Palestine over Israel” by supporting NATO action in Libya. And in April she reiterated her opposition, comparing the engagement to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: “I think we’ve learned lessons that should have kept us out of Libya. Because, again, these tragedies and these travesties that you are referring to didn’t just start because of this war effort. They were happening before.”

Likewise, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson wrote an op-ed denouncing the intervention last March:

When are we going to learn? Injecting American military right into the internal strife of other nations with no clear definition of a successful outcome doesn’t work. Our service men and women who are putting themselves at risk, the taxpayers who are paying $600,000 for every Tomahawk missile launched, and yes, the people in Libya we are supposedly trying to help, all deserve to know what the plan is. That really isn’t too much to ask…

Mr. President, or someone, PLEASE tell us what the plan is. Otherwise, just stop. At the end of the day, what is happening in Libya is a civil war against a clearly bad leader. The world is full of clearly bad and evil leaders, and millions of people being victimized by them. What makes Libya special? Simply enforcing a no-fly zone will cost American taxpayers as much as $300 million a week, and that doesn’t include all those Tomahawk missiles and B-2 round trips. More importantly, those are American crews risking their lives. If there is some compelling reason to be doing what we are doing, tell us what it is.

If, on the other hand, we are once again playing cop to the world, we can’t afford it.


1 Comment

Comment posted August 22, 2011 @ 10:32 am

I won’t say Obama got everything right in Libya. I shared the criticism that he needed to move sooner, before it got down to days before Qaddafi would overrun the last rebels in Benghazi, and he waited too long to explain he policy to the public. I also thought he blew off the deadline to request formal approval from Congress, though congressional approval of funding constituted approval and made that issue moot.

Nonetheless, he did get the authorizing resolution through the Security Council. Though France and Britain were the main movers, they wouldn’t have actually started operations with the US going first and taking the lead. He said our involvement would be scaled down to support, and it was. He said we wouldn’t put Americans on the ground, and he didn’t. He clearly thought the Libyans needed to overthrow their dictator mostly on their own, and they did. We are rid of a noxious dictator without an invasion and occupation, and hopefully Qaddafi’s fate is a bracing lesson for other dictators.

The most important thing is the Arab Spring could have died in Libya and Qaddafi defied it and showed how to defeat it. Let’s give Obama credit because that would have happened without him. It might not have been all conscious policy on his part, but at a minimum he didn’t screw it up.

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