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Posted at 05:51 PM ET, 06/20/2011

Conservatives warn House Republicans not to defund Libyan mission

A group of 37 former administration officials, academics and foreign policy figures on Monday sent a letter to House Republicans urging them not to support any legislation aimed at defunding the U.S. military mission in Libya.

The letter, which was circulated by the Foreign Policy Institute, a conservative think tank, comes as the House is poised to consider a defense appropriations bill that may serve as a vehicle for amendments on the Libyan conflict.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Friday that President Obama has not sufficiently answered lawmakers’ questions on the U.S. military operation and that the House may move to defund it as soon as this week.

Most of the signatories of the letter are conservative-leaning foreign policy hawks, including former deputy assistant secretary of state Liz Cheney; former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz; Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol; former Bush administration senior adviser Karl Rove; and Randy Scheunemann, a former foreign policy advisor to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

In the letter, the conservatives write that they are “gravely concerned” by reports that Congress is considering defunding U.S. operations in Libya.

“Such a decision would be an abdication of our responsibilities as an ally and as the leader of the Western alliance,” they write. “It would result in the perpetuation in power of a ruthless dictator who has ordered terrorist attacks on the United States in the past, has pursued nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and who can be expected to return to these activities should he survive. To cut off funding for current efforts would, in short, be profoundly contrary to American interests.”

They also state that they share the concerns of some members of Congress regarding the way Obama has handled the Libyan mission, but argue that “the problem is not that the President has done too much ... but that he has done too little to achieve the goal of removing Qaddafi from power.”

“The United States should be leading in this effort, not trailing behind our allies,” they write. “We should be doing more to help the Libyan opposition, which deserves our support. We should not be allowing ourselves to be held hostage to U.N. Security Council resolutions and irresolute allies.”

Both parties have seen schisms develop over the Obama administration’s handling of Libya, and some members became particularly incensed following a report that Obama rejected the views of some of his legal advisers in deciding that the operation in Libya does not amount to “hostilities.”

Monday’s letter underscores the debate currently underway within the Republican Party, whose members generally been more supportive of U.S. military intervention abroad. That debate is playing out not only in the House but in the Senate as well, where two prominent Republican freshmen – Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) – have expressed divergent views on how best to proceed in Libya.

The full letter to House Republicans is below.

An Open Letter to House Republicans

We thank you for your leadership as Congress exercises its Constitutional responsibilities on the issue of America’s military actions in Libya. We are gravely concerned, however, by news reports that Congress may consider reducing or cutting funding for U.S. involvement in the NATO-led military operations against the oppressive regime of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. Such a decision would be an abdication of our responsibilities as an ally and as the leader of the Western alliance. It would result in the perpetuation in power of a ruthless dictator who has ordered terrorist attacks on the United States in the past, has pursued nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and who can be expected to return to these activities should he survive. To cut off funding for current efforts would, in short, be profoundly contrary to American interests.

We share the concerns of many in Congress about the way in which the Obama administration has conducted and justified this operation. The problem is not that the President has done too much, however, but that he has done too little to achieve the goal of removing Qaddafi from power. The United States should be leading in this effort, not trailing behind our allies. We should be doing more to help the Libyan opposition, which deserves our support. We should not be allowing ourselves to be held hostage to U.N. Security Council resolutions and irresolute allies.

What would be even worse, however, would be for the United States to become one of those irresolute allies. The United States must see this effort in Libya through to its conclusion. Success is profoundly in our interests and in keeping with our principles as a nation. The success of NATO’s operations will influence how other Middle Eastern regimes respond to the demands of their people for more political rights and freedoms. For the United States and NATO to be defeated by Muammar al-Qaddafi would suggest that American leadership and resolution were now gravely in doubt—a conclusion that would undermine American influence and embolden our nation’s enemies.

In Speaker Boehner’s June 14, 2011, letter to President Obama, he wrote that he believes “in the moral leadership our country can and should exhibit, especially during such a transformational time in the Middle East.” We share that belief, and feel that now is the time for Congress to exhibit that moral leadership despite political pressures to do otherwise.

Sincerely,

Elliott Abrams Ash Jain John Podhoretz

Max Boot Frederick Kagan Stephen G. Rademaker

Ellen Bork Robert Kagan Karl Rove

Scott Carpenter Lawrence Kaplan Randy Scheunemann

Liz Cheney William Kristol Gary Schmitt

Seth Cropsey Robert Lieber Dan Senor

Thomas Donnelly Tod Lindberg Henry D. Sokolski

Eric Edelman Michael Makovsky Marc Thiessen

Jamie Fly Ann Marlowe Kenneth Weinstein

Reuel Marc Gerecht Clifford D. May Paul Wolfowitz

John Hannah Joshua Muravchik R. James Woolsey

William Inboden Martin Peretz

Bruce Pitcairn Jackson Danielle Pletka

By  |  05:51 PM ET, 06/20/2011

 
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