Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said the death of Muammar Qaddafi vindicates his brand of coalition-based global leadership and his decision to team up with allies to oust the Libyan leader.
Critics in Congress assailed the administration for entering the conflict with NATO, describing it as “leading from behind.” Others argued that the president didn’t have the right to start a war without congressional approval. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, explaining the administration’s position, said that the military campaign was “limited intervention,” not war.
Now, after almost eight months of coalition bombing campaigns and financial and materiel support for the National Transition Council, Obama said the U.S. mission to give Libyans a chance to “determine their destiny” has succeeded.
“Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end,” Obama said yesterday at the White House.
“We did exactly what we said we were going to do in Libya,” he said. “I think it underscores the capacity of us to work together as an international community.”
The president, back in Washington a day after an early election campaign bus tour, said Qaddafi’s fall demonstrated the strength of America’s global leadership during his tenure.
Path to Defeat
“We’ve taken our al-Qaeda leaders and we’ve put them on the path to defeat,” Obama said. “We’re winding down the war in Iraq and have begun a transition in Afghanistan. And now, working in Libya with friends and allies, we’ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.”
Leaders from Britain, France and elsewhere echoed Obama’s claims of victory and validation about the end of the dictator’s 42-year turn on the international stage.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Qaddafi’s death showed that “NATO and our partners have successfully implemented the historic mandate of the United Nations to protect the people of Libya.”
The acclaim wasn’t universal. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez said Qaddafi was a “martyr” and a “great fighter” whose death was an “assassination,” according to the Agence France-Presse. The Libyan leader gave Chavez a human rights award bearing Qaddafi’s name in 2004.
Qaddafi’s death follows the flight of Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power on Jan. 14 after large-scale protests. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak followed in April after three decades in power.
A New Page
Yesterday, Egypt’s interim ruling authority called on Libya’s National Transition Authority to “turn over a new page” to rebuild the country and offered assistance to its “Libyan brothers,” the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram reported.
“We will terminate our mission in coordination with the United Nations” and the NTC, Rasmussen said. With the reported fall of Qaddafi-loyalist strongholds Bani Walid and Sirte, “that moment has now moved much closer,” the NATO leader said.
Action in Libya was authorized by a UN resolution that let NATO take all necessary measures to protect civilians. The step was taken after the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League asked the West for help in dealing with Qaddafi’s assault on his own citizens.
Arab-American groups, including the Arab-American Anti- Discrimination Committee, welcomed the start of a new era for Libya. U.S. lawmakers in both parties reacted positively to the news about Qaddafi.
Hope for Oppressed
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said yesterday that Qaddafi’s fall “gives hope to all those around the world who are oppressed by tyrants.”
Michigan Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Qaddafi’s death closed an important chapter for the families of those killed on Pan Am flight 103 and warned about the need to secure Libya’s stockpile of chemical and advanced weapons.
For many Republicans, including Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, Obama’s handling of the Libya situation fell short. Kyl told reporters yesterday that the president “wanted to lead from behind and let others do the job.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said, “It is undeniable that the NATO campaign prevented a massacre” and contributed to Qaddafi’s downfall without “suffering a single American fatality.”
Victory for Multilateralism
Kerry said the mission was “a victory for multilateralism and successful coalition-building in defiance of those who derided NATO and predicted a very different outcome.”
The praise stood in sharp contrast to the tone of debates earlier this year when even Kerry’s committee rejected Obama’s argument that involvement in Libya didn’t require congressional approval because it didn’t constitute full-blown hostilities.
The 1973 War Powers Resolution demands congressional authorization within 60 days of first military strikes.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Air Force colonel, said he is “disappointed in Congress” because lawmakers didn’t exercise their oversight authority. “Congress took an irrational view of the War Powers Act,” he said.
An April 1 Justice Department memo said Obama had the constitutional authority to use military force in Libya because he could “reasonably determine” intervention was in the national interest.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled that members of the House of Representatives who had accused Obama of violating the War Powers Act in Libya had failed to demonstrate that they had the right to sue executive branch officials.
--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Jim Rubin.
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