The U.S. House voted on two Libyan resolutions Friday, one authorizing limited military action in the country and the other defunding the war. Though neither passed, the resolutions split Iowa’s congressional delegation and oddly prompted one congressman to vote against the war before he voted for it. Iowa’s congressmen have also responded to President Obama’s decision to bring home 30,000 troops from Afghanistan.
The House voted Friday morning on H.J.Res. 68, which declared that “The President is authorized [for one-year] to continue the limited use of the United States Armed Forces in Libya.” The resolution never defined the term “limited use,” though it stated that “Congress does not support deploying, establishing, or maintaining the presence” of ground forces in the country. Congressmen King (R) and Boswell (D) voted for the resolution, while Congressmen Latham (R), Braley (D), and Loebsack (D) all voted against it.
Congress then considered H.R. 2278 Friday afternoon, which provided that: “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise available to the Department of Defense may be obligated or expended for United States Armed Forces in support of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Operation Unified Protector with respect to Libya, unless otherwise specifically authorized by law.”
It did create four exceptions, however: “(1) search and rescue; (2) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; (3) aerial refueling; and (4) operational planning.” The roll call shows that Congressmen Latham and Braley voted for the resolution, while Congressmen King, Boswell, and Loebsack voted against it.
It is unclear why Congressman Loebsack, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, would vote against authorizing the Libyan War but not for ending it. His office declined to respond to inquiries by The Iowa Republican (TIR), and he has failed to issue any type of a statement that would explain how funding the war is not the same as authorizing it. He showed no such qualms in seeking to defund the war in Iraq.
Both of Congressman Boswell’s votes ironically make him the “pro-war” candidate, at least on Libya, in Iowa’s newly redrawn 3rd congressional district. His website gives no explanation for his vote, though a month ago he voted against funding ground forces in Libya and for reprimanding President Obama for failing to go to Congress. In addition to his pro-war stance in Libya, Congressman Boswell, though initially skeptical of the Afghan surge, hasn’t demanded a faster Afghan pullout as his Democratic colleagues have.
The spokesman for Congressman Latham, Boswell’s opponent in the new 3rd district, explained his Libyan votes by stating “Congressman Latham is disappointed that the White House failed to go to the appropriate lengths to explain to Congress and the American people what the mission is, how American forces will wind down their involvement in Libya and what constitutes victory.”
In contrast to an unconstitutional and unnecessary Libyan War, Latham’s spokesman informed TIR that, on Afghanistan, “Congressman Latham wants nothing more than for our troops to return home safely and victoriously as soon as possible, but he believes that a precipitous withdrawal would threaten the fragile gains made in recent months. Congressman Latham trusts the judgment of our generals on the ground and believes we should follow their advice.”
Alone among Iowa’s Democratic delegation in the House, Congressman Braley respected his constituents enough to explain his vote. His office issued the following statement on Friday: “Today I voted to limit the President’s authority to engage our country in a third overseas conflict. To date, Libya has cost us $800 million – and we’re looking at projected military costs totaling more than $1 billion through September of this year. That’s a lot of money that we could be spending on priorities here at home. I don’t think we can afford to be engaged in Libya right now, and if the President feels differently, I think it’s time he come to Congress and make his case for this war.”
Congressman King gave a brief speech on the House floor in support of the resolution authorizing limited military action in Libya in which he stated: “This is a message that goes globally. This is a destiny message…Even though, if I had a vote I would have said, ‘No, don’t go into Libya.’ If I had an opportunity to amend this resolution, I would say ‘let’s limit the authorization for a shorter period of time so the President can come do what he should do.’…[A no vote] encourages our enemies…We should conduct our disagreements with the President domestically, not in our foreign policy, and not by limiting our activity that could abrogate our NATO treaty.”
In an appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Congressman King said of the Afghanistan War:
I’m frustrated that I don’t think I know what is going on the ground…I’m uneasy about where we are as far as our tactical objectives….Once we engage in an operation, its our obligation to succeed…It’s the wrong tactic to tell the enemy we are going to fight a war by the date on the calendar…Once we start an operation, we should be successful in that operation because, for one thing, Osama bin Ladin believed that America didn’t have the resolve to complete the engagements that we’ve begun…And when we leave Afghanistan, that we also leave the message that America has the resolve to complete those engagements that we’ve begun and do so successfully. And that saves American lives in the long run.
The Taliban have been our enemy in Afghanistan from actually the very beginning…Now we are having reports of open negotiations with the Taliban…I don’t want to be negotiating with our enemies. I know what they did in Afghanistan the last time and our objective was to remove them and I think that should remain our objective.
Congressmen King and Latham are right—America must successfully complete the Afghan War. The mission there has always been much larger than hunting down Osama bin Laden; it has always been the full and complete destruction of terrorists organizations and those who harbor them.
Perhaps this can be accomplished without nation-building in Afghanistan, perhaps not. But rather than talking about “exit strategies” and precipitous troop withdrawals, we should ensure that our commanders have everything they need to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a terrorist safe-haven.
So long as our troops are the only thing preventing Afghanistan from returning to September 10, 2001, they must remain in sufficient numbers. Only a weak-willed and defeated nation leaves the field of battle when the cost of blood, treasure, or days on the calendar reaches a certain limit rather than when victory on the ground in achieved.
Either a war is worth fighting until its successful conclusion or it isn’t worth fighting at all. There is no other exit strategy than victory.
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