Sens. McCain And Graham And Elliot Abrams Regret That U.S. Didn't Drop More Bombs On Libyans
The imminent demise of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule is an important victory for the Obama administration, which took the U.S. into a multilateral conflict in Libya and defended the policy despite widespread bipartisan opposition. The news out of Tripoli and the images of elated Libyans celebrating their long-awaited freedom is testament both to their unyielding resolve and the important decision by NATO officials to support the Libyans in taking back their country instead of taking it back for them.
But perennial hawks Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) don't see it quite that way. Even while welcoming the outcome of the Libya mission, they just can't say anything without injecting nasty partisanship in the discussion. In a press release, the duo applauds the rebel triumph but complains that too few bombs were dropped by NATO forces, unnecessarily prolonging the inevitable collapse of the Libyan regime.
We also commend our British, French, and other allies, as well as our Arab partners, especially Qatar and the UAE, for their leadership in this conflict. 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.
Can their appreciation for the U.S. effort be more stingy?
McCain and Graham aren't alone in making this argument. Elliot Abrams, the ever-partisan Bush administration official known mainly for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, has a similar post up at National Review Online under the headline "Qaddafi's Fall: No, Obama Was Not Right." Abrams writes:
Had the White House acted sooner and more resolutely Qaddafi could have been brought down sooner, and with fewer Libyan deaths. Moreover, the lingering damage to NATO could have been avoided. Next time the United States wants NATO to act, how will our European allies react? [...]
So the certain drumbeat from the White House and its supporters - "this shows how wise the president has been" - should be rejected. Winning in the end is great, and it sure beats losing. Winning sooner and smarter, winning with your alliances intact, would be far better.
The irony is not lost on many that Abrams, who played such a pivotal role in pushing for the invasion of Iraq, is complaining about the duration of the conflict and the need to reduce civilian casualties. And that he's concerned about NATO when he and his neoconservative allies pushed for the Iraq war without securing serious support from the Europeans or getting approval from the United Nations. The unilateral war that Abrams championed cost the lives of thousands of American service members, cost trillions of dollars, and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. It's still going on as the sectarian division the war created is playing out with weekly bombings across the country.
The fact of the matter is that the struggle for Libya played out the way it did because there was the understanding that Libyans, like Tunisians and Egyptian before them, should be and would be the ones to liberate their homeland and throw out their tyrants. This was not the sort of military misadventure that Bush, McCain, Graham, and Abrams have ever championed. They understand that the Obama administration has been able to help revolutionize the region without having to invade countries, and they really wish it wasn't so.