U.S. Congress may rule to defund Obama’s operation in Libya

The U.S. House of Representatives plans to consider a defense appropriations bill this week during congressional discussions of the country’s budget, which could cut or remove funding for the U.S. involvement in Libya. If this happens, it would raise a series of other financial questions: who will lead the NATO operation, and who will pay for Libyan damages?

Republicans count money too

This could just be a minor case of political blackmail, and it’s possible that they aren’t serious. Yet House Speaker John Boehner said on Friday that President Obama has not sufficiently answered lawmakers’ questions about the NATO operation in Libya, so Congress may move to end financing as soon as this week.

The general outcry after Boehner’s speech includes a letter by a group of 37 former administration officials, academics and foreign policy figures circulated by the Foreign Policy Institute, a conservative think tank. According to the Washington Post, most of the letter’s signatories are conservative-leaning foreign policy hawks, such as former deputy assistant secretary of state Liz Cheney and former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz.

They write that a decision to “defund U.S. operations in Libya” would be “an abdication of [U.S.] responsibilities as an ally and as the leader of the Western alliance.”

This looks more like conservatives are working things out within their own camp. Republicans are now playing the “don’t give Obama money” game more actively than Democrats. It has been the Republicans that cut every program in Congress, because the electorate likes it and because it creates problems for Obama in the re-election year. Defunding Obama’s mission in Libya could fall to this too.

Theoretically, the U.S. government could pack up and leave in six weeks, because it has exceeded the approved sovereign debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion. But it could stay if lawmakers decide to raise the legal borrowing limit.

Congress may do this, but not for nothing. Republicans and Democrats seem to be fighting over who can save more: some say spending should be cut by $2 trillion, while others say $4 trillion would be even better. Irrespective of party membership, everyone agrees that expenses must be reduced, which is why wars have lost popularity.

In love and war…

All’s fair in love and war, but the definitions of love and war are rather vague. When lawmakers asked why the war in Libya began without congressional approval and for what purpose, Obama could not find anything better to say than this is not a war.

This is why House Speaker John Boehner said President Obama has not sufficiently answered lawmakers’ questions on the U.S. military operation in Libya. Bombing Libya from drones and providing information and logistical support to NATO constitute an obvious act of war.

A 1973 law requires congressional authorization for the military to be involved in actions for more than 60 days, plus a 30-day extension. How is this not a war when there are articles of expenditure for it?

If not the United States, who?

The U.S. administration probably acted wisely by avoiding involvement in active hostilities and shifting the bulk of responsibility in Libya to its NATO allies. But they have budget problems too, with strikes and protests expected in the summer and fall in such heavily indebted countries as Greece, Spain and Portugal. No wonder they have little patience with Libya.

In the past, Washington used to shift a large part of its military burden to its closest European ally, Great Britain. But this time Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant has said that the RAF’s ability to respond to future emergencies will be under threat if the mission in Libya continues beyond the summer, according to the Guardian.

The head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, said the same about the navy.

The Libyan opposition leaders headquartered in Benghazi complain that they are not receiving the promised funding. They say they cannot fight nor even produce oil from the territory they control.

The peace talks in Libya are proceeding with considerable assistance from Mikhail Margelov, the Russian president’s special envoy to Africa.

It seems the simplest option would be to get the Benghazi opposition to accept an agreement with Gaddafi, and after reconciliation call the new Libyan regime, if not democratic, then at least striving for democracy. And if they really want, they can resume bombing Gaddafi after the financial crisis is over.

However, this poses a financial problem. Who will pay for the senseless bombing of Libya and how much? Usually in these situations, the victors are never judged. But are there victors in Libya’s senseless war?

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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