Why the White House is tempering its stance on Libya

 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

The Obama administration is tempering its tough talk on Libya with a dose of reality, explaining that even a no-fly zone over the country would require a military attack on Moammar Gadhafi‘s regime. The Pentagon made it clear that it didn’t want war.

Statements Wednesday by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton illustrated the administration’s effort to rein in “loose talk” about military options to force Gadhafi from power. It was an acknowledgement that, short of an unlikely military offensive by a U.S.-led coalition, the options for international action to stem the violence appeared highly limited, even as armed rebels pressed their fight against troops still loyal to the Gadhafi regime.

“Let’s just call a spade a spade: A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses,” Gates told a congressional panel. The Pentagon could get the job done if ordered by the president, he said, but noted that an attack would require more air power than a single U.S. aircraft carrier, which typically carries about 75 planes.

“It is a big operation in a big country,” Gates said.

The unspoken subtext was that with U.S. forces already deeply committed in Afghanistan, still winding down military operations in Iraq, and on the watch for surprises in Iran and elsewhere in the volatile Persian Gulf region, the risks associated with military action in Libya might be unacceptable.

In support of Gates’ point, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that despite media reports of Libyan aircraft attacking rebel areas, the Pentagon had not confirmed any air attacks. He also said it must be assumed that Libya’s air defenses are substantial.

Alluding to Gates’ announcement a day earlier that he had ordered two U.S. warships into the Mediterranean in case they are needed for civilian evacuations or humanitarian relief, Clinton said in separate testimony that the crisis calls for a mix of diplomacy and defense.

“We are taking no option off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to turn its guns on its own people,” Clinton said. But she told two separate Senate subcommittees that the government was far from being in a position to commit to a military response, even as she outlined grave concern about the instability affecting the North African country.

“One of our biggest concerns is Libya descending into chaos and becoming a giant Somalia,” Clinton said. “It is right now not something that we see in the offing, but many of the al-Qaida activists in Afghanistan and later in Iraq came from Libya and came from eastern Libya, which is now the so-called free area.”

Egyptian officials said two U.S. warships passed through the Suez Canal on Wednesday on their way to the Mediterranean Sea, closer to Libya. The amphibious assault ships USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce entered the canal from the Red Sea. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to talk to media, said the Kearsarge carried 42 helicopters.

There has been no consensus in Congress for U.S. military action in Libya. Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday that while a no-fly zone over Libya is “not a long-term proposition,” the Pentagon should be prepared to go that route if so ordered.

Senators, meanwhile, worked on an aid package to Arab countries to solidify democratic gains and improve relations with citizens in a part of the world accustomed to U.S. support for questionable rulers. Kerry, D-Mass., called the financial assistance crucial to cementing a democratic transformation.

Some U.S. allies in NATO are mulling the idea of creating a no-fly zone over Libya. But Germany cautioned Wednesday against playing into charges that the West is unduly meddling in Arab affairs. For their part, military analysts warned that such an operation would be technically difficult and very expensive and that it was unlikely the U.S. or Europe wanted to take on the responsibility.

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Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Robert Burns and Donna Cassata in Washington and Gregory Katz in London contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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5 Responses to "Why the White House is tempering its stance on Libya"

  1. Carl Nemo  March 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I’ve mentioned that I analyze photo’s for hidden meaning. Lately I’ve noticed our leadership has been practicing hand gestures found among the nobility of old Europe.

    So it’s fitting that this ‘Empress of the New World Order’ Hillary expresses her noblesse oblige by offering her raised albeit ‘left hand’ of understanding along with beneficent restraint concerning military options on behalf of ‘Empire Americanus’. Of course she has the index and forefinger of her right hand crossed behind her back no doubt.

    Watch out Libya…”Big Sister” speaks…! / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Carl Nemo  March 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm

      “the index and forefinger of her right hand crossed” …extract from post and quite a feat I might add? / : |

      Should read more simply and correct:

      Of course on her other hand she has her fingers crossed behind her back no doubt.

      This is what happens when one hasn’t had their first cup of coffee in the AM and tries to post witty commentary . My apologies. : (

      Carl Nemo **==

      • b mcclellan  March 3, 2011 at 8:43 pm

        A gesture of grandeur / shinola Carl;
        beckoning follow me,
        the oasis of talk to the hand is nigh… drageruaeb

  2. woody188  March 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Why can’t NATO take care of anything without the United States being involved? We give away so much money and weapons, why can’t the NATO allies create the no fly zone they want on their own? It’s Europe that gets oil from Libya, so make them fight for it.

    And once again we see the lies of al-C.I.A.da working in Iraq from NWO tool Clinton. Whip up the anti-Muslim frenzy. Lord knows her political career is over after her stint as SoS, if history is any indicator.

    Likewise, why are Americans being asked to sacrifice while our Congress takes measures to send more money overseas as “foreign aid?” Cut the domestic budget by $61 billion, then give it all away to foreign powers? Senator Kerry should take some of his own Heinz money and send it if he’s so worried. Maybe they’ll take payment in bottles of ketchup?

  3. woody188  March 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    And another thing, for all the Orwell fans out there, I’d love to hear how invading another country for stable oil supplies for Europe counts as “defense” as per das Fräulein Clinton. GRRRRR!

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