Boxer, Lee differ on Obama’s Libya policy

Even after President Barack Obama laid out his rationale for military intervention in Libya’s civil war yesterday, lawmakers from the Bay Area who are among the most liberal members of their respective chambers remain split on whether it was a wise move.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last week said she felt the President had the Senate’s support in launching the air attacks, and had this to say after the President’s speech yesterday:

“President Obama reminded the country tonight of why it was critical for the international community to take action to prevent the mass slaughter of innocent men, women and children by Moammar Gaddafi’s forces.

“I am pleased that NATO is now assuming control of the mission, and it is important that partners in the Arab League, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, continue to play an active role in enforcing the no-fly zone and ensuring the protection of the Libyan people.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, an early and ardent supporter of Obama’s candidacy who since has parted ways with him on many military matters, today said:

“The President’s speech yesterday was an important opportunity to address many of the unanswered questions about U.S. military involvement in Libya, and he was able to explain why his Administration felt compelled to intervene in Libya. Like the President, I am deeply concerned with the serious humanitarian crisis in Libya and Gaddafi’s reprehensible treatment of the Libyan people, and I believe that the U.S. should work with the international community to protect the well-established fundamental international recognition of civil and political rights. But I maintain my belief that an increased U.S. military presence in Libya could inflame the situation and, ultimately, prove counterproductive to the end goal of sustainable peace.

“I am pleased with the news that soon NATO will be leading the military effort in Libya, and I share the President’s praise for our courageous troops. But a more thorough discussion about the ramifications of U.S. military engagement in Libya should have occurred before the recent action was taken. Congress must have an opportunity for a robust debate on the risks associated with committing our military resources to Libya, especially with two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still being fought.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Can Prof. Lee explain why NATO allies’ ground troops, unlike Yanks, are less likely to “inflame” the crisis in Libya? (NATO troops will certainly “inflame” Gaddafi and his supporters) As for the peaceloving Member’s “early and ardent” support for B.H.O., that support and a nickel was worth one vote. Oak-town and Stalingrad-on-the-Bay would have voted for the Prez if he delivered all his speeches in Malay.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Barbara Lee for President in 2012! Barach Obama should be awarded the Nobel War Prize this year!
    Libya is having a Civil War. No Country interfered with the US Civil War!

  • John W

    I had reservations about intervention before a decision was made, and still do, based on lack of clarity about the “end game” and lack of knowledge about the rebels. Before, leftists and neo-cons alike were egging Obama on the do the no fly zone. Now, freak show types like Gingrich and Rand Paul have completely reversed themselves, with their only consistency being to oppose whatever Obama does. And Sarah Palin calls it a “squirmish.” Ronn Owens on KGO, center left or right depending on the issue, criticized Obama beforehand for being indecisive and mentioned Hillary Clinton’s “3 a.m. phone call” ad from the primaries. Now, he has second thoughts but still invokes the 3 a.m. call analogy and says that he would likely vote for Hillary in the primaries if he had a do-over. Of course, he neglects to mention that Hillary was the main proponent for intervention in the administration. It was the Secretary of Defense who had doubts. Even though I still have doubts, I wonder how we would feel if Obama had done nothing, and Ghaddafi had slaughtered 50,000 people as some experts predicted. If Obama had waited for Congress to have a floor debate, there would be nobody left to protect. As JFK once quoted somebody after the Bay of Pigs, “failure is an orphan and victory has a thousand fathers.”

  • Elwood

    Why have we not intervened in other African genocides?

    Could it be because those countries don’t have any oil?

    Waldobama is a big hypocrite.

  • John W

    Re #4

    Fair question, wrong answer.

    If oil was a factor in deciding what to do or not do, then the smartest thing would be to let Ghaddai crush the rebels and get back to business as usual. It’s the rebellion that could interrupt supplies, especially since most of the oil is in the rebel-controlled East.

    Also, Libya is a relatively small producer in the global oil market (ranks 17th), and estimates are that the U.S. buys only 2-7% of Libya’s oil exports — only 79 thousand barrels a day according to one estimate. China and Europe are the biggest customers.

    On the other hand, it seems safe to say that oil was a big consideration in dealing with Iraq in both Gulf Wars.

    Doing something about those other African genocides (assuming you think of Libya as “African” rather than Arab) would have required a lot more than a No Fly Zone and Tomahawks. We would have had to send in significant ground forces and kept them there in extremely hostile battle conditions for god knows how long. After our experience in Somalia, there’s little stomach for that. One thing Bush 43 did right was build good will in Africa with substantial assistance to fight AIDS. That (along with the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates, Carter, and Clinton foundations) is a lot more in our national interest than getting involved in African wars.

  • Elwood

    All oil is fungible. If Libya’s oil didn’t go to Europe, the Europeans would be competing with us for other sources.

    “We would have had to send in significant ground forces and kept them there in extremely hostile battle conditions for god knows how long.”

    And what makes you so confident that we won’t be doing that in Libya?

    Whatever it is, I’d like to have some of it.

  • John W

    Re: #6

    “All oil is fungible.” True, but that doesn’t change my main points. First, if oil is the goal, you stick with Ghaddafi, not the rebels. He may be horrible, but the oil part has been working just fine under his dictatorship. Second, Libya is not Saudi Arabia. The volume does not influence the global markets much. Therefore, I conclude that Obama’s actions are not driven by oil, even though other U.S. actions and policies in that part of the world have been thusly driven.

    As for the other, I’m confident Obama is too smart, politically and geo-politically, to get sucked into a full-blown on-the-ground war in Libya. And I’m even more confident the public would not stand for it. There’s little to gain and much to lose.

  • Elwood

    “I’m confident Obama is too smart”

    Congratulations on your high level of confidence in our leader.

    Next year we’ll see how many share your view.

  • Elwood

    “Oil reserves in Libya are the largest in Africa and the ninth largest in the world with 41.5 billion barrels (6.60×109 m3) as of 2007. Oil production was 1.8 million barrels per day (290×103 m3/d) as of 2006, giving Libya 63 years of reserves at current production rates if no new reserves were to be found. Libya is considered a highly attractive oil area due to its low cost of oil production (as low as $1 per barrel at some fields), and proximity to European markets. Libya would like to increase production from 1.8 Mbbl/d (290×103 m3/d) in 2006 to 3 Mbbl/d (480×103 m3/d) by 2010–13 but with existing oil fields undergoing a 7–8% decline rate, Libya’s challenge is maintaining production at mature fields, while finding and developing new oil fields. Most of Libya remains unexplored as a result of past sanctions and disagreements with foreign oil companies.[1]”


  • John W

    Re: #8

    “Next year we’ll see how many share your view.”

    Hey, I just live here. If people want President Huckabee and Tea-Party majorities in both chambers of Congress, so be it. I’ll just shift my investments to a safer haven and enjoy the entertainment. The one Republican with the credentials and smarts for the job is the conservative governor of Indiana, but he’s too mellow and pragmatic for the Right.

  • For Liberty

    Our attack on Libya is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. A serious abuse from the executive branch like unto Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet these violations are allowed to continue even though there is a system of checks and balances established to prevent it. Obama has followed in the steps of those he has proceeded, by trampling all over that sacred document.

  • Elwood

    Re: #11

    Meet the new boss:

    Just like the old boss.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Khadafi could live in Berkeley and lead a seminar in Arab oil exploration at UC. I’m sure he would feel right at home on Telegraph Av.