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Libya: National Interest?

Each day new information regarding the extent of US involvement in Libya is released. Recently we found out about CIA agents present on the ground in Libya. Apparently there have been CIA operatives on the ground for several weeks now after President Obama signed a secret finding authorizing the CIA to support Libyan rebels; it has been reported that no weapons have yet been sent to Libya. Additionally, it has been released that the US approved the use of spy planes and drones to track movements of troops, eavesdrop and intercept communication and determine coordinates.

On March 28 President Obama made remarks on the situation in Libya and how the United States has responded. He defined as “part of our interests, our national interests”. Two days later, Defense Secretary Gates and Adm. Muller, answered Congress’ questions about the Libya campaign. Americans remain skeptical of US intervention in light of the wars already being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. When questioned, Gates said that US involvement would be limited but then later said there was no time frame for Qaddafi’s removal.

Another reason for concern is the lack of Congressional involvement in decision-making. When pressed about why Congress was not aware or consulted about US intervention Secretary Gates said that the President decided less than 48 hours before about his plan of action and essentially had no time to consult Congress. However, when Secretary Clinton was asked about this she replied that under the War Powers Act, the administration did not need Congressional approval and they would not be seeking it.

Criticism is profuse regarding the cost and viability of the operation. The cost of US intervention in Libya is currently estimated at $40 million per month in addition to the $550 million the US spend up until now. Many question whether arming Libya’s rebel leaders is the best option for the US to be engaging in considering the possibility of arming rebels who could later turned against us. Another criticism is that the administration chose to intervene in Libya but not other humanitarian efforts like Darfur, as promised during the 2008 elections, revealing inconsistency. Critics opine that intervention in Libya over Sudan is based on the presence of oil.

Amidst the uncertainty of US actions in Libya and the controversy over why the US intervened in the first place, Libya has become a crucial national security issue. It remains to be seen whether the US intervention into Libya was based on national interests, as President Obama explained in his speech.


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