McCain: Obama “Made a Mess” of Libya

The senator lambastes the president for not deploying full American airpower and failing to recognize the rebels’ interim government.

President Barack Obama “made a mess” of the situation in Libya, said Senator John McCain on Thursday. The former Republican presidential contender blamed the Democrat for not deploying full American airpower in North Africa, for not declaring a no-fly zone “when it counted” and failing to recognize the rebels’ Transitional National Council as the legitimate voice of the Libyan people.

McCain previously supported a deeper American involvement in military action in Libya, telling NBC’s Meet the Press in April that the European allies “neither have the assets nor, frankly, the will” to see the operation through.

He reiterated that sentiment on Fox News’ On The Record this Thursday, pointing out that of the 28 NATO states, only seven have been involved in Libya. “We are supporting these other air assets with assets that they don’t have,” he said.

Most importantly, we could have gotten the job done with the use of American air assets rather than relying on our allies who simply don’t have the capabilities that we do. If the president says Gaddafi has to go, we ought to at least do from the air what would hasten his departure.

France and the United Kingdom, which pushed for military action in March after a popular uprising against the forty year reign of Muammar Gaddafi was violently crushed, have requested eight or so heavily armed AC-130 ground attack aircraft and A-10 planes to provide close air support for rebel forces on the ground — airplanes which neither of them have in service.

American involvement was crucial in enforcing a no-fly zone to prevent air forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi from targeting rebels and protesters on the ground but since the initial phase of the intervention, the American role has largely been reduced to a logistical one, including coordination and refueling, and providing intelligence to Arab and Western partners.

The Republican Party is divided on the merits of the Libyan intervention but McCain has urged support for the country’s rebels from the start, even visiting the city of Benghazi in April where the anti-government forces established their interim government. The Arizona senator told Fox that the rebels are prepared to “take over” and warned that to have Gaddafi remain in power “would mean renewal of terrorist attacks.”

It would mean Al Qaeda would have a more fertile breeding ground in both areas. And it is in our interests to see Gaddafi go and then give the responsibilities to our European allies who have much more at stake than the Libyans do.

Although McCain insists that removing Gaddafi from power is in the interest of the United States, it probably matters far more to their allies. “It is more in the vital interest of Europeans,” former national security advisor General James Jones said in April, “when you consider the effects of massive immigration, the effects of terror, the oil market.”