In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi’s troops remain in an offensive posture, striking in several cities other than Benghazi. The no-fly zone will not be able to simply deliver Libya to the rebels, as Gadhafi’s troops still have capabilities on the ground (and never used their air force much to begin with, truth be told). The Western coalition supporting the rebels still don’t appear to have a handle on who they’re supporting. This puts a pall over the entire project, which cannot reasonably be described as a humanitarian mission to prevent a slaughter. Clearly, the desire for regime change hangs over this, but the big question remains: change to what? And how does air superiority help deliver that change, in what is fundamentally a political power struggle?
The Pentagon claims that an expansion of the no-fly zone will enable them to hand off control of the mission to coalition partners, and American sorties have shrunk in the past couple days. But that has not been enough for Congress, interestingly enough. I have maintained that Congress didn’t really want the responsibility to give authorization for the action in Libya, and that they were generally happy for the White House to take the burden. But they’re not acting like that.
One of the most liberal members of the House plans to introduce an amendment to the next federal budget bill barring funding for military involvement in Libya.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who has been an outspoken critic of the United States’s involvement in Libya, announced the amendment in a letter to his colleagues in the House.
“While the administration assures us that that the U.S. will hand-off its lead role to coalition partners within days, we have not been notified of long-term plans or goals following initial air strikes in the country,” Kucinich writes in the letter. “The timeline the president gave to Congress was summarized with one word: ‘limited.’ “
Kucinich intends to attach this to whatever continuing resolution funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year, legislation which would have to pass by April 8. It adds another wrinkle to the battle over federal spending.
This doesn’t mean that Republicans will allow such an amendment to get a vote. But Kucinich will have a lot of backup for it, I suspect, including from some Democrats who supported military action in Iraq:
Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch is blasting President Obama for joining yesterday’s international air assault on Libya, saying he is “very, very troubled” by the decision to commit military assets to what Lynch considers a “civil war.”
“I think generally under the Constitution, there has to be a direct threat to U.S. national security,” said Lynch, of South Boston. “I don’t see anything that would warrant the type of commitment we’ve made.”
I’ve heard this from a lot of House members, though this it not a universal position. And I think it crosses party lines. While Kucinich’s bill on cutting off funding may not come to pass, I think you may see a clamor for some sort of authorization. Which I didn’t expect at the beginning of this conflict.
UPDATE: Now it gets interesting. Two Republican Congressmen, Tim Johnson of Illinois and Justin Amash of Michigan, will introduce legislation to defund the military action in Libya. This is now a bipartisan issue.