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Two key Senators on foreign policy criticized President Barack Obama on Sunday for not taking a more aggressive stance toward Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s crackdown on political protesters, with one calling for arming Libyans to form a new government.
Senate Armed Services ranking member John McCain said Obama should have strongly condemned the Libyan dictator as soon as the political uprising began this month, despite concerns about putting Americans in Libya at risk.
“The British prime minister and the French president and others were not hesitant, and they have citizens in that country,” the Arizona Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
People in Libya and other nearby nations experiencing political upheaval “are looking to America for leadership, for assistance, for moral support and ratification of the sacrifices they have made in defense of democracy,” he said. “America should lead.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, agreed on “State of the Union” that the United States should have come out early with a stronger response. “I wish we had spoken out much more clearly and early against the Gadhafi regime,” the Connecticut Independent said.
Now is the time to step up action against Gadhafi, said Lieberman, who endorsed giving weapons to citizens who are trying to form a new government.
Obama should recognize “the revolutionary government, the citizens’ government, and support for them with both humanitarian assistance and I would provide them with arms,” he said. “This takes me back to the ’90s in the Balkans when we intervened to stop a genocide against Bosnians. And the first [thing] we did was to provide them the arms to defend themselves. That’s what I think we ought to do in Libya.”
Both McCain and Lieberman have been traveling in the Middle East, and they appeared on the show in a live feed from Cairo.
McCain said “there possibly could be” a military option for the United States, but he said enforcing a no-fly zone is the best solution for now.
“Libyan pilots aren’t going to fly if there is a no-fly zone, and we could get air assets there to ensure it,” he said.
In a separate appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” McCain continued making the case for imposing a no-fly zone. “A no-fly zone would be a very strong signal,” he said. For the moment, the United States is “not ready to use ground forces.”