The death of Muammar Qaddafi offers a milestone in the Libyan revolution as the Libyan Transitional National Council must move on to the difficult task of holding national elections and NATO forces begin to wind down operations. But the Libyan and NATO victory doesn’t seem to be enough for congressional hawks who have long mocked the White House’s so-called “leading from behind” Libya strategy.
While U.S. participation in a successful NATO and regional coalition operation in Libya without putting American lives in danger would seem like an overall victory, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) all took to the airwaves to grudgingly admit that while the White House’s strategy appears to have worked, their untested plans for more U.S. airpower and a unilateral strategy in which U.S. commanders would control the air campaign, would have resulted in fewer Libyan deaths.
Mccain told the Today Show:
The fact is that we could have ended this conflict a lot earlier if we had used the full weight of U.S. air power instead of leading from behind and we wouldn’t have the 30,000 who are wounded and hundreds, if not thousands, who are killed.
Rubio told Fox News:
We have a lot of people dead and a lot of young men who, instead of entering the workforce and helping rebuild Libya, have to go into rehab and recovery for their war wounds. A lot of this could have been avoided had we gotten involved early and decisively.
And Graham told Fox News:
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.
Watch a compilation of their comments:
Of course, a large-scale bombing campaign, as they seem to be suggesting, would have taken a massive humanitarian toll as well. Perhaps more importantly, a U.S. driven campaign, as opposed to the role the U.S. and its allies played in offering air support for Libyan rebel forces, would have made Qaddafi’s defeat yet another U.S. led overthrow of an Arab leader instead of a popular revolt driven by Libyan rebel forces. While Rubio, McCain and Graham might have wanted to apply an Iraq-style strategy of unilateral U.S. military action, their assertions that lives would have been saved appears to be nothing more than politically motivated speculation.