Lugar Still Has It Right On Libya

Sen. Richard Lugar isn't satisfied with the belated explanation President Barack Obama offered in a speech last night for starting a war in Libya without so much as reaching out for advice, let alone seeking consent from Congress. Strangely, President Obama was vacationing with his family in Rio when American warplanes began military strikes in Libya last week. All other recent presidents always addressed the American people directly at the commencement of a military action to make the case for foreign intervention. Obama didn't bother to offer a public rationale for the military action until he was met with widespread criticism from a broad political spectrum. Obama's speech last night was delivered to an audience at the National Defense University in Washington, and he appeared to be talking over the heads of average Americans. His speech seemed contradictory at times. He suggested Gadaffi must step down at the same time he argued against broadening the mission to include regime change. Sen. Lugar explains to the Star why Obama has still not made a case for the military action.

“Most of the concerns I had before, I still have with regard to the budgeting for this, the plan for how it ends, what the benchmarks of success are, what the repercussions are for other countries that have dictators but are very helpful to us in the war against terror,” the Indiana Republican said a day after the president gave a televised address defending U.S. intervention. “These are issues the president still will need to deal with.”

Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had said weeks before the U.S. participated in establishing a no-fly zone in Libya that the U.S. should not get involved. He also said the administration needed authorization from Congress if it did want to intervene.

Lugar said that when the president briefed congressional leaders on the situation Friday, Lugar pressed for the purpose of the action and was told it was to save civilians, an argument the president made in his national address.

“I think there are all sort of civilians that might be saved in many countries all over the world, almost every day,” Lugar said of that rationale.

Obama said Monday that while the U.S. can’t stop repression everywhere, Libya faced the prospect of “violence on a horrific scale.”

“We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves,” Obama said.
Lugar also wonders what the total cost of the action will be and whether it will include the invariable rebuilding cost to repair the damage a sustained bombing campaign will cause. He notes the cost to American taxpayers has already exceeded $1 billion.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is waging a campaign to unseat Lugar in the Republican primary next year as he seeks an unprecedented seventh term. Mourdock has criticized Lugar for being too liberal and too close to Obama, but he has remained silent so far on the Libyan action while Lugar has been an outspoken critic of Obama. I would be interested in hearing where Mourdock stands on the Libyan mission.