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Marco Rubio Warns Against Disengagement from Libya

Leading from the front.

6:02 PM, Jun 28, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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In a strong speech on the Senate floor, Marco Rubio warned against disengagement from Libya. “Here is what withdrawal will mean in real terms,” Rubio said:

1. The coalition would quickly unravel. Gadhafi would emerge victorious, even more dangerous and determined to seek his revenge through terrorism against the countries in NATO and the Arab League that tried and failed to overthrow him.

2. We would see a bloodbath inside Libya. This killer Gadhafi will unleash unspeakable horrors against the Libyan people. And the ripple effects will be felt across the Middle East. For example, the Pro-democracy movements in place like Iran to Syria would conclude that they too might be abandoned. And the dictators they oppose would be emboldened.

3. Our disengagement would irreparably harm damage the NATO alliance.

Rubio, also, criticized the Obama administration for its handling of the Libyan engagement: “First, for the life of me, I do not understand why this administration did not bring this issue to the Congress from the outset.” But, ultimately, Rubio argued that it’s more important that the general policy in Libya be right than the politics of whether President Obama handled the situation properly. 

Here's video of Rubio's speech:

Here's the full text:

Over the last two weeks, we have seen a deepening divide between the White House and Congress over Libya. It is a clash that was both completely avoidable but also counterproductive.

First, for the life of me, I do not understand why this administration did not bring this issue to the Congress from the outset. In the early days of the Libyan rebellion, the President should have come to the Congress, informed us that an armed rebellion had arisen against Libyas’s anti-American, criminal dictator. That the rebels were asking for our assistance in establishing a no-fly zone over Libyan air space so they could take care of the dictator themselves. And that with our support, he intended to work with our allies to establish such a no-fly zone.

If this President had done this, I believe he would have found support here and Qadafi would have been gone a long time ago.

But instead, this administration waited. While it did, Qadafi reestablished momentum, and began to carry out a new level of atrocities unprecedented even by his murderous standards. And then, only with the Qadafi mercenaries on the outskirts of Benghazi threaten to massacre thousands of innocent civilians, did the U.S. finally agree to participate.

But even that was botched. First, we ceded most of the operation over to our NATO allies. God bless them for trying, but they do not have the military capability to finish the job.

Second, the President never consulted Congress, again ignoring a co-equal branch of government unnecessarily.

And then, when finally he was pressed under the War Powers Act, he claims the United States is not involved in “hostilities” in Libya.

Why we have reached this point is something history will have to explain. Suffice it to say, it didn’t have to be this way. And the reason why it is, is 100% the result of the Presidents failure to lead.

Now, all that being said, we need to decide what to do next. This is not about Hawks versus Doves. Or Interventionists versus Isolationists. Or any of the other labels being used to describe this debate.

And this cannot be about how upset any of us are at the President for botching the handling of this matter.

What we do next should be decided based on what is in the best interest of our country.

And here is the reality, whether you agree with it or nor, the United States is now engaged in a fight. And it is a fight that only has two possible endings.

It can end with the fall of a brutal, criminal, anti-American dictator.

Or it could end in that dictator’s victory over our allies and us.

I would suggest, that given these two choices, the best choice for America is the first one, the fall of the anti-American dictator.

Going forward, how do we do this?

First, we should officially recognize the Transitional National Council.

Second, we should provide additional resources to support the council, including access to Libyan funds frozen here in the United States. And by the way, we should also make sure that we the frozen funds are also used to reimburse us for the cost of this operation.

Third, we should intensify strike operations to target the Gadhafi regime and get rid of this guy once and for all, and as soon as possible.

Then, fourth, we should go home and allow the Libyan people to build a new nation and a new future for themselves.

I understand that rightfully so, many here in the Congress and across America are weary of more war and more overseas engagement during a time of severe budget constraints here at home.

But the fact remains that whether you agree with it or not, we are already involved. We are already involved in Libya. We have already spent a considerable amount of money there. Are we going to let all that go to waste? Are we prepared to walk away and get stuck with a lose-lose proposition? We spent all this money on Libya, and Qadafi is still around?

It is in on national interest to get this over with already.

This afternoon, the Foreign Relations Committee will meet to consider a resolution on this matter. I am concerned that rather than push the President to do what is necessary to bring this conflict to a successful conclusion, some are pushing to restrict our military campaign.

No matter how you may feel about the original decision. We must now deal with the situation as it now stands. And the bottom line here is that if we withdraw from our air war over Libya, it will lengthen the conflict, increase its cost to American taxpayers, and raise doubts about U.S. leadership among friends and foes alike.

Here is what withdrawal will mean in real terms:

1. The coalition would quickly unravel. Gadhafi would emerge victorious, even more dangerous and determined to seek his revenge through terrorism against the countries in NATO and the Arab League that tried and failed to overthrow him.

2. We would see a bloodbath inside Libya. This killer Gadhafi will unleash unspeakable horrors against the Libyan people. And the ripple effects will be felt across the Middle East. For example, the Pro-democracy movements in place like Iran to Syria would conclude that they too might be abandoned. And the dictators they oppose would be emboldened.

3. Our disengagement would irreparably harm damage the NATO alliance.

I fully understand the frustration at the way the President has handled this situation. But the answer to any problem is not to make it worse.

Some may think that what we do here this afternoon on the resolution is largely symbolic. Simply intended to "send a message" to the White House.

Yes, it will send a message to the President, but it will also send a message to Gadhafi and those around him.

And here is the message that I fear we may send, that the coalition is breaking and the Qadafi regime might yet win. I know that is not anyone’s intention. But that is the very real risk we run.

There is a better, more pragmatic way forward.

Lets pass a resolution backing these activities.

For those of frustrated with the Presidents failure to adequately make the case for our involvement, our job in Congress is to push the administration to do a better job explaining our effort in Libya.

Here is the good news. The tide in Libya appears to be turning against Gadhafi. The opposition in Benghazi has succeeded in expanding the territory under its control, breaking the siege laid by regime forces on Misrata, the country's third largest city.

At the same time, the Gadhafi regime has been shaken by further defections and collapsing international support.

Libya is at a critical juncture. And for the United States, there is only one acceptable outcome, the removal of the Gadhafi regime and, with it, the opportunity for the Libyan people to build a free and democratic society.

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