President Obama's policy against using military power to unseat Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi could lead to a situation similar to the aftermath of the first Gulf War, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden steps onto global stage with high-stakes UN speech Biden falters in pledge to strengthen US alliances 20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance MORE (R-Ariz.) said Monday night.
McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that Gadhafi, the dictatorial leader of Libya whose forces have endured U.S. and allied airstrikes, must have been "somewhat comforted" by Obama's speech.
"Gadhafi must have been somewhat comforted by that. It was, at least to some degree, counter to the president's statement that Gadhafi must go," McCain said on CNN shortly after Obama's address to the nation. "And if we end up in a situation where Gadhafi is able to cling to power, then we could easily see a reenactment of what happened after the first Gulf War -- stalemate, no fly zone, lasted for 10 years, and didn't bring Saddam Hussein out of power."
Obama spoke Monday evening from the National Defense University in his first major speech to a U.S. audience about his decision to use U.S. military power to back rebels in Libya.
The president said that the U.S. decided to intervene because of the unique humanitarian circumstances in Libya, and that military action would be limited to advancing those ends. The U.S. goal of removing Gadhafi, Obama said, would be pursued through non-military means.
A number of Republicans expressed dissatisfaction with Obama's explanation on Monday, and complained that the president still hadn't sufficiently defined the mission in Libya.
"Whether it’s the American resources that will be required, our standards and objectives for engaging the rebel opposition, or how this action is consistent with U.S. policy goals, the speech failed to provide Americans much clarity to our involvement in Libya," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE (R-Ohio). "Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: what does success in Libya look like?”
A variety of Democrats, including top lawmakers, praised Obama for laying out a "clear" vision of Libya. The fact that almost all of the Democrats used that word in their statements underscored the Democratic message.
"America and its allies stand alongside the Libyan people as they determine their future," Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo Build Back Better, we need a tax system where everyone pays their fair share Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda MORE (D-Nev.) said in reaction to the president's speech. "While I support the president’s decision not to commit ground troops to this mission, I share the President's determination to see this tyrant removed from power."
But even centrist Republicans seemed unconvinced by the president's remarks, homing in particularly on the endgame in Libya.
"Tonight, unfortunately, President Obama failed to answer the question of how our current involvement in Libya will end and how long it will take to get there," Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R), a consummate centrist, said in a statement. "He has yet to present a specific set of objectives, how to achieve them, and how to prevent an unintended expansion of the current mission."