The United States has “an unequivocal national interest” in removing Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi and should “intensify strike operations” to target him, Sens. Joe Lieberman and Marco Rubio write in today’s Wall Street Journal.
It’s no surprise that Lieberman (I-Conn.) touts a hard line, but Rubio (R-Fla.), a freshman Tea Party darling whose name has been touted as a 2012 vice presidential candidate, is sure to raise eyebrows by adding his byline.
The senators brush aside the constitutional issues with the Libyan conflict that led to a lawsuit from anti-war House members and have been the basis for congressional calls for President Barack Obama to abandon the nascent Libyan rebel movement.
“Whatever one thinks about the constitutional questions surrounding the War Powers Resolution, or the wisdom of the original decision to intervene in Libya three months ago, the strategic reality is that our nation is now engaged in a fight,” Lieberman and Rubio write. “It will either end in the demise of a brutal anti-American dictator, or in his victory over us and our allies. The latter would be an extremely harmful outcome for the U.S.”
The op-ed comes the morning after Obama announced the beginning of a major troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and after weeks of congressional grumbling about the Libya mission. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) led a coalition of 10 House members who sued the president to get U.S. troops out of the country, and Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly said Obama is in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution because he has not secured congressional approval.
Topping it off, a Rasmussen poll released last week found just 26 percent of Americans approve of continued American military action in Libya.
To try and win public – or at least congressional – opinion, the White House last week released a 32-page report to Congress defending the mission and explaining the legal rationale behind it. The administration claimed it is not violating the War Powers Resolution because American troops are not technically engaged in “hostilities” since European and Canadian planes are performing the bombing runs and Americans are merely providing support.
Lieberman and Rubio call for Congress to pass a resolution sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) – a longtime Lieberman friend – that backs American involvement in Libya.
At the same time, Lieberman and Rubio say the Obama administration has not properly explained why U.S. troops are involved in the NATO-led effort.
“Instead of denying we are engaged in ‘hostilities’ (we are) or that the aim of our military operations is ‘regime change’ (it is), the White House owes Congress and the American people a better explanation of why Libya is in our national security interest and why we and our allies must win the fight there,” the two men write. “Here, too, however, our job in Congress is to push the administration to do a better job explaining our war effort in Libya – not to undermine or weaken it.”
For Rubio, the Journal op-ed comes just a week after his maiden speech on the Senate floor, which functions as a coming-out party for all freshman senators.