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Senate Resolution Authorizing US Libya Mission Introduced

Senator John McCain March 8, 2011 (file photo)

A resolution authorizing limited U.S. military engagement in Libya has been introduced in the Senate. The Obama administration says no such authorization is needed, but that it would welcome the statement of bipartisan support for the mission.

If adopted, the resolution authorizes limited use of U.S. forces in Libya for one year. It specifies the U.S. military will play a supporting role in the NATO-led campaign, and that no American ground troops will be deployed in Libya.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry of Massachusetts, says the justification for U.S. intervention in Libya is compelling and clear.

"What is happening in the Middle East right now could be the single most important geo-strategic shift since the fall of the Berlin Wall," said Kerry. "The promise that the pro-democracy movement holds for transforming the whole Arab world, and all that that could mean for the United States in terms of hopes for peace between Israel and Palestine, hopes for diminishing the levels of religious extremism, hopes for reducing the amount of terrorism - all of those things are contained in this [Arab] awakening."

Kerry said those hopes would be dashed if Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi survives and the people's aspirations are crushed. He added that all the United States has sought to achieve since the 2001 terrorist attacks would be jeopardized.

A leading Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, gave an equally-enthusiastic endorsement of continued military action.

"Here are the facts: Gadhafi is going to fall. It is just a matter of time," said McCain. "So I would ask my colleagues: is this the time for Congress to turn against this policy? Is this the time to ride to the rescue of a failing tyrant, when the writing is on the wall that he will collapse? Is this the time for Congress to declare to the world, to Gadhafi and his inner circle, to all of the Libyans who are sacrificing to force Gadhafi from power, is this the time for America to tell all of these different audiences that our heart is not in this [fight]? That we have neither the will nor the capability to see this mission through?"

The Senate resolution comes as a small, but vocal, group of legislators from both political parties attempts to force an end to U.S. military engagement in Libya. In the House of Representatives, there is a push to cut off funds for the operation. Last week, 10 lawmakers filed suit in federal court, arguing the mission is illegal, having lasted well beyond a 60-day window for securing congressional authorization.

The Obama administration argues no authorization is needed since U.S. forces are not actively engaged in hostilities in Libya, and no American troops are deployed on Libyan soil. While defending the goals of the mission, Senator McCain disagreed with the administration's reasoning, and said President Obama should have sought congressional authorization from the start.

"I find it hard to swallow that U.S. armed forces dropping bombs and killing enemy personnel in a foreign country does not amount to a state of hostilities," added McCain.

But while championing the Senate resolution, Senator Kerry argued the administration's logic is sound.

"Just because hostilities are taking place, and we are supporting people engaged in those hostilities, does not mean that we are, ourselves, introducing troops into hostilities. No American is being shot at. No American troop is on the ground or contemplated being put on the ground," Kerry noted.

Just when or if the House of Representatives might move to de-fund the Libya mission is unclear, and, even if it did, the Senate is unlikely to follow suit. Senators Kerry and McCain say they would like to see the Senate debate and vote on the resolution authorizing intervention in Libya by the end of the week.