Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has had no shortage of criticisms for Obama administration’s handling of NATO air support for Libyan rebels. But with news this morning of Muammar Qaddafi’s death, Graham offered a new set of criticisms for the administration’s policy of working with a NATO coalition in Libya. Graham, appearing on Fox News, said:
One of the problems I have with “leading from behind” is that when a day like this comes, we don’t have the infrastructure in place that we could have. I’m glad it ended the way it did. It took longer than it should have. If we could have kept American air power in the fight it would have been over quicker. Sixty-thousand Libyans have been wounded, 3,000 maimed, 25,000 killed. Let’s get in on the ground. There is a lot of money to be made in the future in Libya. Lot of oil to be produced. Let’s get on the ground and help the Libyan people establish a democracy and a functioning economy based on free market principles.
Just last week, the administration announced it was planning to dispatch dozens of former military personnel to Libya to track down surface-to-air missile stockpiles but that doesn’t seem to be where Graham is focusing his concern. Instead, Graham says “leading from behind” — a go-to criticism for congressional hawks who wanted a greater U.S. military involvement in Libya — is now preventing the U.S. from moving quickly enough to profit from a post-Qaddafi Libya. The Senator is quick to point out that plenty of profits can be made from Libya.
Graham is accurate in his assessment that Libya has a lot of oil and potentially could make a lot of money for U.S. and other western oil companies. But the crudeness of observation and the clear ties between “get[ting] in on the ground,” “lot of oil to be produced,” and helping Libya establish “a functioning economy based on free market principles” make it sound like Graham’s eagerness for U.S. boots on the ground has more to do with economic interests than with securing a democratic and stable country for Libya’s citizens.