Graham spoke in a colloquy with Sen. John McCainJohn McCainA stronger NATO for a safer world Drug importation won't save dollars or lives Dem rep Charlie Crist files for divorce MORE (R-Ariz.) and used borderline apocalyptic tones about the need to remove Gadhafi from power.
"I know we're a war-weary nation, but there is no upside to Gadhafi staying in power," he said. "That is a national security nightmare for this country."
Graham added that while the top priority of the U.S. is to balance its budget, he warned that economic prosperity depends on removing dictators like Gadhafi.
"There will never will be economic prosperity in America if the world is in the hands of evil people who will make it very difficult for us to travel and trade and do business," he said.
He also said the U.S. needs to warm up to its role as the leader of the free world.
"I believe that we're destined to lead the free world," he said. "I don't consider it a burden. I consider it the birthright of all Americans — not only to maintain our freedom, but to help others secure theirs.
"The day that America rejects that leadership role is the day we will eventually lose our freedom," he added.
Graham's remarks go well beyond rhetoric used by the Obama administration, which has not said that removing Gadhafi is a military goal of the U.N. mission. But Graham has called for Gadhafi's removal for the past few months, and on Tuesday reiterated his belief that it would be the "end of NATO" if Gadhafi survives.
"What if NATO is no longer an organization that people throughout the world respect on the side of good, and the evil side of the ledger doesn't care if NATO gets involved because they don't have the will to do anything about it?" he asked.