GOP Hopefuls Split on Libya Air Strikes

Fewer than 24 hours after President Obama announced support for the no-fly zone in Libya and the United Nations resolution authorizing international action against the Gaddafi regime, the reaction from key Republicans in the U.S. illustrated the wide split in the GOP on the latest foreign policy bombshell, even as the U.S. commenced air strikes on Libya’s forces.

To the surprise of no one, Ron Paul came out early and strongly against Obama’s decision, blasting it as “unconstitutional.”  In sharp contrast was Nevada’s Kirk Lippold, onetime U.S. Navy commanding officer of the U.S.S. Cole and now considered one of the GOP’s potential stars in 2012.  Lippold felt that the U.S. had waited too long to respond to Gaddafi, contrasting French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Obama “for recognizing the opponents to Gaddafi as quickly as he did and sending a strong signal to the world.”

Texas congressman and 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Paul, in a broadcast Saturday, blasted Obama’s latest move in Libya, declaring that “[i]t’s rather insulting that this authority [to impose a no-fly zone] comes from the United Nations and not the Congress.”

“We can hide behind that,” said Paul.  “Britain and France may actively participate.  But we have the military might.  Nothing will happen without us.  We’ll bear most of the financial burden.  If it gets out of hand, we’ll be blamed.”

Paul said he preferred the response of President Dwight Eisenhower during the Suez Canal crisis.  When “Britain and France came to Ike in 1956 to save their Suez Canal from [Egyptian strongman], Nasser and Ike said. ‘You’re on your own.’ “

The polar opposite position on Libya to Paul’s is, also not surprisingly, that of Lippold, who was commanding officer of the U.S.S. Cole when it was bombed in Yemen in 2000 and 17 Americans were killed.  Lippold confirmed to HUMAN EVENTS that he is “seriously considering” a race for either the U.S. Senate or the 1st District seat being relinquished by Republican Rep. Dean Heller.

“It’s a sad statement that the U.S. used to lead and is now looking indecisive, when France has stepped forward to lead,” Lippold, who is now retired from the Navy, told us shortly after Obama’s statement on Libya on Friday.  “Gaddafi has proven himself to be a murderous liar, and we now know he was behind the bombing of Pan Am 103 [the 1988 flight on which 243 passengers were killed while over Lockerbie, Scotland].  I would have reacted much earlier, and the U.S. should have taken the lead on this before the UN passed its resolution [Thursday night], not when Gaddafi’s forces are headed straight toward Benghazi [headquarters of the Libyan freedom fighters].”

Lippold speaks from experience when it comes to Libya and Gaddafi.  In 1985, he was division officer of the U.S.S. Yorktown during Operation Aegis—when U.S. ships sailed into the Gulf of Sidra to defy Gaddafi’s claim of the gulf as Libyan territorial waters, dubbing the cutoff point for foreign ships the “line of death.”  At times in the Sidra operation, the U.S. ships were fired upon and they engaged Libyan aircraft in dogfights.  No American lives were lost.

The diametrically opposed stands of Ron Paul and Kirk Lippold on Libya are those of only two Republicans.  But clearly they signal what is sure to be a fresh debate within the Republican Party as the drama in Libya unfolds in the weeks ahead.