The Cable

Neocons warn House GOP on Libya

There's a growing division inside the Republican Party on national security policy that is being exacerbated by the Libya intervention, and several GOP foreign policy mavens are warning House Republicans not to play games with the issue.

Top national security experts on the right are preparing an open letter to House Republicans urging them not to cut funding for the military intervention in Libya, as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has threatened to do. The letter was written by former NSC staffer Elliott Abrams, Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan, and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol. A letter asking for signatures was circulated Friday by Jamie Fly, director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, and subsequently sent to The Cable.

"We thank you for your leadership as Congress exercises its Constitutional responsibilities on the issue of America's military actions in Libya. We are gravely concerned, however, by news reports that Congress may consider reducing or cutting funding for U.S. involvement in the NATO-led military operations against the oppressive regime of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi.  Such a decision would be an abdication of our responsibilities as an ally and as the leader of the Western alliance," the letter reads. "It would result in the perpetuation in power of a ruthless dictator who has ordered terrorist attacks on the United States in the past, has pursued nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and who can be expected to return to these activities should he survive. To cut off funding for current efforts would, in short, be profoundly contrary to American interests."

The letter's authors agree with Congressional complaints that the Obama administration has failed to properly communicate with the legislative branch regarding the Libya mission, but disagree with those in Congress who believe the Libya intervention is unwise. In fact, they want more military involvement.

"We share the concerns of many in Congress about the way in which the Obama administration has conducted this operation. The problem is not that he has done too much, however, but that he has done too little to achieve the goal of removing Qaddafi from power. The United States should be leading in this effort, not trailing behind our allies. We should be doing more to help the Libyan opposition, which deserves our support. We should not be allowing ourselves to be held hostage to UN Security Council resolutions and irresolute allies," the letter states.

Kagan told The Cable that Republican support for  cutting off funding for Libya was not only bad policy, but also a political mistake, because it would put  the decades-long GOP advantage on national security in jeopardy.

"We just think Republicans, in their understandable annoyance at the Obama administration, are losing sight of the big picture," he said. "And it's not only a strategic error but also a political error. Republicans can quickly squander a well-deserved reputation for being the strong party on foreign policy. They may not know it now, but it will hurt them in 2012."

Full letter after the jump:

An Open Letter to House Republicans

We thank you for your leadership as Congress exercises its Constitutional responsibilities on the issue of America's military actions in Libya.  We are gravely concerned, however, by news reports that Congress may consider reducing or cutting funding for U.S. involvement in the NATO-led military operations against the oppressive regime of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi.  Such a decision would be an abdication of our responsibilities as an ally and as the leader of the Western alliance.  It would result in the perpetuation in power of a ruthless dictator who has ordered terrorist attacks on the United States in the past, has pursued nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and who can be expected to return to these activities should he survive.  To cut off funding for current efforts would, in short, be profoundly contrary to American interests. 

We share the concerns of many in Congress about the way in which the Obama administration has conducted this operation.  The problem is not that he has done too much, however, but that he has done too little to achieve the goal of removing Qaddafi from power.  The United States should be leading in this effort, not trailing behind our allies.  We should be doing more to help the Libyan opposition, which deserves our support.  We should not be allowing ourselves to be held hostage to UN Security Council resolutions and irresolute allies. 

What would be even worse, however, would be for the United States to become one of those irresolute allies.  The United States must see this effort in Libya through to its conclusion.  Success is profoundly in our interests and in keeping with our principles as a nation.  The success of NATO's operations will influence how other Middle Eastern regimes respond to the demands of their people for more political rights and freedoms.  For the United States and NATO to be defeated by Muammar al-Qaddafi would suggest that American leadership and resolution were now gravely in doubt-a conclusion that would undermine American influence and embolden our nation's enemies.

In Speaker Boehner's June 14, 2011, letter to President Obama, he wrote that he believes "in the moral leadership our country can and should exhibit, especially during such a transformational time in Middle East."  We share that belief, and feel that now is the time for Congress to exhibit that moral leadership despite political pressures to do otherwise.  

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