Washington D.C – Ranking Member Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) released the following statement at today’s hearing on Operation Odyssey Dawn and U.S. Military Operations in Libya:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen.”
“On Monday night, the President clearly articulated his rationale for leading an international effort to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Libya. As Colonel Gadhafi moved forward with his campaign of violence and intimidation against the Libyan people, the Administration rallied the international community to intervene. Today, it is clear that our subsequent military action prevented the slaughter thousands of civilians.
“The coalition’s establishment of the no-fly zone and strikes against Libyan regime forces was a good first step in protecting the Libyan people from heinous acts of violence by Gadhafi’s brutal regime. Now, as NATO begins to fully exert control of the operation, the question becomes: how is the U.S. role evolving? The President has said that he expects our military commitment to decline fairly quickly and he was correct to rule out the use of U.S. ground forces, but any use of our forces comes with costs and risks and we need to be sure we fully understand them going forward.
“So, the intent is that the no-fly zone in conjunction with diplomatic and economic measures will either pressure Gadhafi to step down or help persuade the Libyan people to hasten his departure. This is the right approach but there are still some unknowns. In order to properly apply that sort of pressure we need to better understand the regime structure, forces and its supporters, so we know where it is most susceptible to our efforts. And we need more insight into the nature, strength, composition and leadership of the opposition so we can fine-tune our support to them. This is how to maximize our chance of success.
“The next step will be up to the Libyan people. Although we will help them like we would any fledgling state, it is not our goal to engage in nation building in Libya. They will build a new government and a new future for their country.
“Lastly, as I have said before, at the outset of this operation, I had some concerns with the level of communication between the Administration, Congress and the American people. It’s gotten better over time; I’m glad the President came before the American people this week, and the Member briefing yesterday was useful. The decision to commit U.S. forces is a significant one, and I certainly would encourage the President to be more proactive in his outreach efforts if and when he finds himself in a similar situation in the future.”