Defense Secretary: Libya Did Not Pose Threat to U.S.

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Defense Secretary: Libya Did Not Pose Threat to U.S.

Post by ToddS on Sun Mar 27, 2011 12:39 pm

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Defense Secretary: Libya Did Not Pose Threat to U.S., Was Not 'Vital National Interest' to Intervene







White House Says Nobody Knows When U.S Military Operation in Libya Will End


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By JOSHUA MILLER



WASHINGTON, March 27, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Libya did not pose a threat
to the United States before the U.S. began its military campaign against
the North African country.


On "This Week," ABC News' Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper
asked Gates, "Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to
the United States?"

"No, no," Gates said in a joint appearance with Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, their first since the Libya operation began. "It was
not -- it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it
was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary
Clinton talked about. The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of
the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake."

Gates explained that there was more at stake. "There was another piece
of this though, that certainly was a consideration. You've had
revolutions on both the East and the West of Libya," he said,
emphasizing the potential wave of refugees from Libya could have
destabilized Tunisia and Egypt.

"So you had a potentially significantly destabilizing event taking place
in Libya that put at risk potentially the revolutions in both Tunisia
and Egypt," the Secretary said. "And that was another consideration I
think we took into account."

During his campaign for the presidency, in December, 2007, Barack Obama
told The Boston Globe that "The president does not have power under the
Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation
that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the
nation."

Earlier in 2007, then-Senator Hillary Clinton said in a speech on the
Senate floor that, "If the administration believes that any -- any --
use of force against Iran is necessary, the President must come to
Congress to seek that authority."

Tapper asked Clinton, "Why not go to Congress?"

"Well, we would welcome congressional support," the Secretary said, "but
I don't think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention
where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a
humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or
President Obama was speaking of several years ago."

"I think that this had a limited timeframe, a very clearly defined
mission which we are in the process of fulfilling," Clinton said.

Earlier in the interview, which was taped on Saturday afternoon, Gates extrapolated the White House's timeline on Libya.
"Some NATO officials say this could be three months, but people in the
Pentagon think it could be far longer than that. Do you think we'll be
gone by the end of the year? Will the mission be over by the end of the
year?" Tapper asked
"I don't think anybody knows the answer to that," Gates said.
The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for almost ten years,
at war in Iraq for almost eight years and at war in Libya for nine days.
"For all practical purposes, the implementation of a no-fly zone is
complete," Gates said. "Now it will need to be sustained, but it can be
sustained with a lot less effort than what it took to set it up."
On the humanitarian side, the defense secretary said significant progress has been made.
"We have prevented the large scale slaughter that was beginning to take
place, has taken place in some places. And so I think that we are at a
point where the establishment of the no-fly zone and the protection of
cities from the kind of wholesale military assault that we have seen
certainly in the East has been accomplished and now we can move to
sustainment," he said.
Regime Change?


President Obama has called for Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi's
departure, but regime change is not one of the goals of the United
Nations-led military operations. Tapper asked about this seeming
inconsistency.

"So why not have, as part of the mission, regime change, removing Gadhafi from power?" Tapper asked the Secretary of Defense.

"Well, first of all, I think you don't want ever to set a set of goals
or a mission -- military mission where you can't be confident of
accomplishing your objectives," he said. "And as we've seen in the past,
regime change is a very complicated business. It sometimes takes a
long time. Sometimes it can happen very fast, but it was never part of
the military mission."
Clinton Cites Rwanda, Bosnia in Rationale for Libya Intervention


Clinton emphasized the humanitarian rationale for the U.S. military
intervention in Libya, recalling instances from recent history when a
lack of U.S. intervention had left hundreds of thousands dead.

Clinton said that the United Nations-backed military intervention in
Libya "is a watershed moment in international decision making. We
learned a lot in the 1990s. We saw what happened in Rwanda. It took a
long time in the Balkans, in Kosovo to deal with a tyrant. But I think
in what has happened since March 1st, and we're not even done with the
month, demonstrates really remarkable leadership."
"Imagine we were sitting here and Benghazi had been overrun, a city of
700,000 people, and tens of thousands of people had been slaughtered,
hundreds of thousands had fled and, as Bob [Gates] said, either with
nowhere to go or overwhelming Egypt while it's in its own difficult
transition. And we were sitting here, the cries would be, why did the
United States not do anything?" she said "Why -- how could you stand by when, you know, France and the United
Kingdom and other Europeans and the Arab League and your Arab partners
were saying you've got to do something," Clinton told Tapper.

In an interview on "This Week" in December, 2007, Clinton told George
Stephanopoulos that she urged President Clinton to intervene in Rwanda
during the 1994 genocide there.
Then-Senator Clinton said, "I believe that our government failed. … I
think that for me it was one of the most poignant and difficult
experiences when I met with Rwandan refugees in Kampala, Uganda, shortly
after the genocide ended and I personally apologized to women whose
arms had been hacked off who had seen their husbands and children
murdered before their very eyes and were at the bottom of piles of
bodies, and then when I was able to go to Rwanda and be part of
expressing our deep regrets because we didn't speak out adequately
enough and we certainly didn't take action."

The New York Times reported that Clinton, along with National Security
aide Samantha Power and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan
Rice, helped convince President Obama to take action on Libya. Rice, who
worked on Africa issues for President Clinton during the genocide in
Rwanda, in which up to a million people were slaughtered, has expressed
regret for not doing more to encourage intervention to stop the killing.
Powers, formerly a journalist, wrote the seminal book on U.S.
non-intervention during massive humanitarian crises.

The White House vehemently denied that Clinton, Powers and Rice were
instrumental in pushing the President to approve the Libya intervention.
Clinton Says U.S.-Pakistan Relationship "Very Difficult"


Clinton made it clear that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan was not in an ideal place.
Tapper asked, "Has this relationship gotten worse in the last six months, U.S.-Pakistan?"
"Well, Jake, it's a very challenging relationship because there have
been some problems. We were very appreciative of getting our diplomat
out of Pakistan and that took cooperation by the government of
Pakistan," she said, referring to the release of Raymond Davis, the
American CIA contractor recently released after months in a Pakistani
prison on charges of murdering two men in Lahore.
"We have cooperated very closely together in going after terrorists who
pose a threat to both us and the Pakistanis themselves. But it's a very
difficult relationship because Pakistan is in a hard position trying to
figure out how it's going to contend with its own internal extremist
threat," she said.
"But I think on the other hand, we've also developed good lines of
communication, good opportunities for cooperation, but it's something we
have to work on every day."
Worry About a Post-Saleh Yemen


Gates expressed worry in the interview about Yemen, after that Middle
Eastern country's long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he was
willing to step down. Saleh was in talks Saturday to leave office after
32 years, according to The Associated Press. Widespread protests in
Yemen have sapped Saleh's political support in recent days.

"Secretary Gates, you said this week we have not done any post-Saleh
planning," Tapper said. "How dangerous is a post-Saleh world, a
post-Saleh Yemen to the United States?" he asked.
"Well," Secretary Gates replied, "I think it is a real concern because
the most active and, at this point, perhaps the most aggressive branch
of al Qaeda -- al Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula -- operates out of
Yemen.

"And we have had a lot of counterterrorism cooperation from President Saleh and Yemeni Security Services," he said.

"So if that government collapses or is replaced by one that is
dramatically more weak, then I think we'll face some additional
challenges out of Yemen. There's no question about it. It's a real
problem," Gates told Tapper.

In response to violence in Yemen last week, President Obama released a
statement saying, in part, "I strongly condemn the violence that has
taken place in Yemen today and call on President Saleh to adhere to his
public pledge to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those
responsible for today's violence must be held accountable."


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