Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, made the floor comments as he urged support for a resolution to back President Obama's intervention in Libya.
“Absent U.N./NATO resolve, the promise that the pro-democracy movement holds for transforming the Arab world could have been crushed,” Kerry said. “What is happening in the Middle East could be the most important geostrategic shift since the fall of the Berlin Wall."
Kerry suggested that inaction by the U.S. could empower other despots to strike out against their own people. “Other dictators would have seen the world's failure to challenge Gadhafi as a license to act with impunity against their own people,” he said.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and members of both parties in the House have criticized Obama for arguing he does not need congressional authorization for the military action, in which the U.S. is now in a support role behind NATO. The criticism has led to suggestions for legislation that could limit the action or cut off funding.
Kerry claimed that NATO's involvement prevented even greater violence on the Libyan people. Early in the conflict, Gadhafi had famously vowed to kill protesters "house to house."
“How many senators have gone to Israel or other parts of the world where we say to people with respect to he Holocaust ‘never again, never again?’" asked Kerry. “Do those words only apply to one group of people or do the words have meaning in terms of genocide?”
Kerry and McCain have offered a resolution that would grant President Obama the congressional authority for a limited U.S. military role.