Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the committee's top Republican member, Richard Lugar of Indiana, have a long history of agreement on how to approach international issues. But Lugar is fuming about how President Obama went into Libya without congressional approval, an intervention that Kerry has championed.
Lugar, who is up for re-election, wrote a letter to his colleague demanding prompt hearings on Libya in their committee.
"I believe hearings not only would provide some important answers to senators and to the American people," he wrote, "they would induce the Obama administration to conduct in-depth contingency planning that does not seem to have occurred."
Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones said in response: "Senator Kerry understands the importance and complexity of our role in protecting the people of Libya and the committee will hold public hearings in the near future. He has been traveling in the region over recess to get information firsthand from our allies."
He noted Kerry and other senior congressional leaders from both parties have been briefed by the Obama administration during the past two weeks.
Jones also said the conflict in Libya was explored on March 17 when Undersecretary of State Bill Burns testified in public for more than two hours about the uprisings in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East.
Here is the full text of Lugar's letter:
I write to request Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the U.S. governmentís ongoing intervention in the Libyan civil war and the innumerable policy considerations that flow from that intervention. I noted a newspaper story today that cited one of your spokesmen as saying that there are no plans for hearings on Libya. That statement may not accurately reflect your own intent. But I wanted to make clear that I believe prompt hearings on Libya in our Committee are essential.
Any U.S. military intervention in a foreign country would require oversight hearings by the Foreign Relations Committee. In my judgment, hearings on Libya are especially vital because the Obama Administration did not consult meaningfully with Congress before initiating military operations. Members have not yet had an opportunity to question the Administration on its policy goals or its diplomatic and military strategy. The Administration has not defined the U.S. strategic interest in Libya or adequately articulated how the conflict ends. Questions remain about how the coalition will function going forward and what role the U.S. will play among our allies. Administration ambiguity on these points is impacting our military activities, the cohesion of the coalition, and public attitudes towards the war.
We also know little about the Libyan opposition or the Administrationís plans for paying for the war. It is not clear that the Obama Administration has thought through the consequences of this action for regional stability, the fight against terrorism, the impact on oil markets, and other factors.
I believe hearings not only would provide some important answers to Senators and to the American people, they would induce the Obama Administration to conduct in-depth contingency planning that does not seem to have occurred. Is the Administration planning for the range of potential outcomes, including a prolonged stalemate in which Col. Qadhafi remains in power in Tripoli? All scenarios in Libya will have significant budget implications at a time when Congress is focused on achieving budget savings. We need to discuss this now, so the American people know what may be asked of them.
An enclosed article by Tom Friedman poses many additional questions that should be explored in hearings on the Libya intervention.
I appreciate the hearing on upheaval in the broader Middle East that we held with Undersecretary Burns on March 17, before the coalition intervened in Libya. As you know, in that hearing, I expressed serious doubts about a U.S. military intervention and urged the President to seek a declaration of war if he ordered an attack on Libya. I continue to advocate for a Senate floor debate on this question. If such a floor debate occurs, hearings in our Committee would be an important contribution to Congressí base of knowledge and inquiry.
I have no doubts that our military can accomplish whatever mission it is assigned. We must fulfill our constitutional role to ensure that their efforts are part of a coherent national strategy. I appreciate your consideration of my views.
Richard G. Lugar
United States Senator
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.