US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Lugar Opposes Obama’s Intervention In Libya’s Civil War

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Andy Fisher • 202-224-2079
Mark Helmke • 202-224-5918

Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Republican Leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the following statement at the beginning of the committee “mark-up” on a resolution authorizing United States engagement in the Libyan civil war:   

Today the Committee will consider perhaps the most important question within its jurisdiction:  whether to authorize the President to wage war.

We do so at a time when the United States is still engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and our national debt exceeds $14 trillion.  In light of these circumstances, and the lack of U.S. vital interests in Libya, I do not believe that we should be intervening in a civil war there.

American combat forces are so efficient at certain types of operations and our over-the-horizon technology is so potent that the use of the military instrument to right wrongs exists as a tremendous temptation for Presidents.  American intervention in Libya did not come as a result of a disciplined assessment of our vital interests or an authorization debate in Congress.  Given all that is at stake in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere in the Islamic world, a rational strategic assessment would not devote sizable American military and economic resources to a civil war in Libya.  It is an expensive diversion that leaves the United States and our European allies with fewer assets to respond to other contingencies.

Under the Constitution, it is our responsibility to determine whether we should be a party to Libya’s civil war.  As part of this process we will consider the terms and scope of the joint resolution before us.  I am concerned that this resolution would provide broad authorities permitting significant expansion of U.S. military involvement in Libya’s civil war.   

The resolution would authorize the President to re-escalate U.S. military involvement in Libya to, and potentially beyond, the lead role it played at the beginning of the operation, when the United States carried out intensive air strikes on a daily basis.  The resolution would only limit the President to actions “in support of United States national security policy interests” and “to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.”  This would accommodate much more intense U.S. military action than is currently occurring. 

The resolution contains no legally binding prohibition on the introduction of American ground troops in Libya.  It addresses this issue only through non-binding language indicating that Congress “does not support” deployment of ground troops.  The Administration has said that it has no plans to introduce ground troops into Libya.  Strong majorities of both houses of Congress oppose the introduction of ground forces.  From all indications, the American people do not want troops there.  I see no reason why this prohibition should not be binding.

The resolution fails to counteract the President’s assertion that current U.S. operations do not amount to “hostilities” and therefore do not require Congressional authorization under the War Powers Resolution.  Allowing this assertion to stand unchallenged would increase the risk that Presidents will conduct similar military interventions in the future without seeking or receiving Congressional authorization.

The resolution also lacks sufficient provisions for Congressional oversight of the operations, their costs, and their potential impact on other U.S. national security objectives.

I have offered five amendments to address these concerns that have been circulated to all members.  They would: first, narrow the authorized role of U.S. military forces to intelligence sharing, refueling, search and rescue assistance, and planning support; second, establish a legally binding prohibition on the deployment of ground forces; third specify that the War Powers Resolution applies to current U.S. military operations in Libya, and that continuation of those operations requires Congressional authorization; fourth, require specific reports on the Libya operation on strict deadlines; and fifth, express the sense of Congress that post-war reconstruction costs should be borne primarily by the Libyan people and Arab League nations.

I welcome the chance to consider these amendments and the amendments offered by other members.  I would like to be a co-sponsor of Senator Webb’s second degree amendment to my amendment on ground troops.