As the White House pushed its case for military intervention in Libya a day before the president plans to address the nation, some of Capitol Hill’s biggest voices on the subject took to the airwaves Sunday to buoy their own positions.
Sen. John McCain called the U.S. and NATO military efforts in Libya “a golden opportunity” to help democracy and freedom in the Arab world. If the United States had not gotten involved against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, the Arizona Republican said on “Fox News Sunday,” it would have sent a signal that “it’s OK to massacre your own people to stay in power.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who also appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” called the situation in the Middle East “remarkable” because people of the Arab world are saying: “We want democracy. We want freedom.”
McCain compared the recent wave of democratic uprisings in the Middle East to the fall of the Ottoman Empire or the collapse of the Soviet Union. These are “historic times of enormous opportunity and proportions,” he said.
Although Lieberman conceded that the diplomatic rhetoric has been “confusing,” he said the United States has “taken a side in Libya, and it’s the right side.” McCain said he hoped the president will clarify his policy during his address to the nation Monday evening.
Lieberman also said he would support a Libya-like military intervention in Syria, where a government reform movement is spreading across the nation, if President Bashar Assad “turns his weapons on his people” as Gaddafi did. “There’s a precedent now the world community has set” with Libya, Lieberman added.
Syrian security forces fired on protesters Friday, killing at least 14 people, the Washington Post reported. Assad pulled back security forces from the city of Daraa, the center of unrest, and released hundreds of political protesters from military prison the next day in an apparent attempt to ease the tensions, the newspaper reported.
Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Dick Lugar, who has criticized the administration for joining international partners in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya without Congressional approval, framed the conflict as a civil war that the United States should stay out of.
“I don’t believe we should be engaged in the Libyan civil war,” the Indiana Republican said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I believe the Libyans are going to have to work that out. The fact is that we don’t have particular ties with anybody in the Libyan picture, and we will have to at least adjust to whatever that outcome may be. As far as we’re concerned, Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates has said it’s not of vital interest to the United States, American interests are not at stake, and we ... already have done much more than our part with regard to the no-fly zone, with regard to European friends.”
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