McCain And Graham Say US Should Have Pushed Harder For Fall Of Qaddafi

August 22, 2011 5:42 am

Since the beginning of the Libyan conflict, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have been on the side of the hawks. They kept that stance Sunday night, issuing a joint statement that celebrated “the end of the Qaddafi regime” but bemoaning how long it took.

It’s useful to recall the background to this conflict. After much diplomatic wrangling to win a UN resolution authorizing air strikes for the “protection of civilians,” NATO forces including the US began military operations on March 19, 2011. Just over five months later the 42 year-long rule of Qaddafi is basically at an end.

But that wasn’t enough for McCain and Graham. From their statement:

“Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.”

The two senators stood in contrast to a substantial segment of the Republican party, including presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who argued that the way President Obama went about committing US assets to the fighting was an imperious abuse of his power.

McCain and Graham on the other hand, dinged Obama for not acting imperiously enough. They argued that his insistence on following the UN mandate of “protecting civilians” meant NATO forces weren’t hitting Qaddafi hard or fast enough. To be fair, their criticisms were echoed by a number of military analysts who argued there was confusion among NATO ranks over whether they were really engaged in regime change or not, and if they were then to what extent they could push.

However, the fallout is probably among the better possible results. Had Qaddafi wound up dead under the rubble of what NATO deemed a “command and control center” then it might have sown the seeds of future troubles. It could have come across in the Arab world as an entirely Western adventure and interference. This way, at least, there’s a strong argument to be made that it was simply an internal revolution that simply benefited from Western aid. As the former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted, under these circumstances “the ‘Pottery Barn’ rule does not apply.”

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