Throughout the U.S. involvement in Libya, which is in its 155th day, most members of Congress have been sharply critical of President Obama’s handling of the mission, arguing that the president overstepped his authority by not seeking authorization from Congress. Several members have also contended that the intervention was unwise at a time when the nation’s military and financial resources are stretched thin.
But Democratic leaders, as well as some of the GOP’s leading foreign policy voices, have expressed support for Obama’s actions and have called for the White House to do more to support the rebels working for Gaddafi’s ouster.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who was one of eight House Republicans joining most Democrats in June in voting to authorize the U.S. mission, said Monday that “in particular, we must ensure that Qaddafi’s stockpiles of advanced weapons, chemical weapons and explosives don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
“We can be proud of the role the United States and its allies have played,” Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “Assertive action by the United States can make a critical difference in the struggle against dictatorship and oppression. But this is not over yet. Even after Qaddafi is out of power we will have to step up and lead to ensure U.S. national security interests are safeguarded.”
And Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two other early backers of the mission, said in a statement Sunday night that “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.”
“While Libya’s future will of course be made by the Libyan people themselves, the United States must lead the international community to provide the support that our Libyan friends need,” McCain and Graham said. “We must remain engaged with the Transitional National Council and move expeditiously to release the assets of the Qaddafi regime so they can be used for the benefit of the Libyan people and the reconstruction of the country.”
“Ultimately, our intervention in Libya will be judged a success or failure based not on the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, but on the political order that emerges in its place,” they added.
Congress as a whole has given mixed messages when it comes to Libya, however.
The House in June rejected a measure authorizing the mission but also voted against a bill that would have immediately withdrawn U.S. troops from the region; the chamber also voted down a measure that would have limited funding of the mission and voted in favor of legislation rebuking Obama for his handling of the conflict.
The Senate, meanwhile, voted in March to support the establishment of a no-fly zone before Obama’s formal announcement of the U.S. mission. Since then, efforts to craft a resolution authorizing the mission have fallen through, and the chamber has taken no action on Libya throughout the five-month-long conflict.