A vacationing U.S. President Barack Obama has been briefed on events in Libya, where rebels are fighting for control of the capitol, Tripoli. A White House spokesman says leader Moammar Gadhafi’s days are numbered, and the Libyan people deserve a democratic and peaceful future. That view was echoed by a high-ranking U.S. senator and former Republican presidential candidate who spoke on U.S. television Sunday.
End is near
Senator John McCain was an early advocate of U.S. intervention in Libya, where NATO forces have waged a five-month air campaign to protect civilians and degrade the capabilities of government forces. Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation television program, the Arizona lawmaker said the end is near for Moammar Gadhafi.
“It is a matter of hours, if not days," said McCain. "And once our NATO forces under the leadership of the French and the British and others became more heavily engaged with the use of air power, I think it was something that was going to happen.”
A Gadhafi spokesman says Tripoli is “well protected” and will be defended. The spokesman labeled the rebels as foreign-backed “armed gangs”.
Libya after Gadhafi
But Senator McCain is looking ahead to a post-Gadhafi Libya.
“It is going to be a big challenge forming a new government, uniting a country that has never known democracy," said McCain. "We have seen the difficulties with other countries that have made this transition. But we will be rid of a guy that has the blood of Americans on his hands.”
The U.S. Congress has yet to formally endorse American military engagement in Libya, a conflict that has re-ignited a decades-old debate in the United States about constraints on executive authority to deploy forces abroad.
Senator McCain says lives could have been spared and the conflict could have been brought to a quicker end if the United States had intervened more aggressively from the start. He expressed confidence in Libya’s ability to govern itself post-Gadhafi, noting that the country has vast resources that will generate revenue. But he added that Libya will need help from the United States and NATO.
Message to Middle East
McCain said the end of Moammar Gadhafi’s rule will be felt outside Libya.
“This will send a message to [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad. It will send a message in Yemen," he said. "It will send a message to other dictators that their time is nearing an end.”
For now, White House officials say they are closely monitoring the situation in Libya and keeping President Obama abreast of developments while he vacations in the state of Massachusetts.