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Boehner Quizzes Obama On Libya, Accuses Him Of Launching Fuzzy Mission

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio watches President Obama deliver his State of the Union address, Jan. 25, 2011.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio watches President Obama deliver his State of the Union address, Jan. 25, 2011.

No sooner did Air Force One land at Andrews Air Force Base just outside Washington, returning President Obama from his Latin American trip, than did Speaker John Boehner make public a letter to Obama demanding clarification on many aspects of the U.S. intervention in Libya.

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said he respected the president's role as commander-in-chief. But he took Obama to task in his letter, accusing the president of spending more time consulting foreign allies than he did Congress about the mission.

He also pointed out what seem to many observers to be contradictions in the White House strategy. Boehner also echoed the worries of numerous lawmakers that the U.S. military could wind up being used longer in Libya than Obama indicates.

Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed displeasure with the level of consultations between the White House and Congress before the military intervention began over the weekend.

Thus, Boehner appeared to be confronting the president as the top official of the House as much as a Republican Party leader though it's sometimes hard to separate the two roles.

Boehner wrote:

It is my hope that you will provide the American people and Congress a clear and robust assessment of the scope, objective, and purpose of our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved. Here are some of the questions I believe must be answered:

  • A United Nations Security Council resolution does not substitute for a U.S. political and military strategy. You have stated that Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi must go, consistent with U.S. policy goals. But the U.N. resolution the U.S. helped develop and signed onto makes clear that regime change is not part of this mission. In light of this contradiction, is it an acceptable outcome for Qadhafi to remain in power after the military effort concludes in Libya? If not, how will he be removed from power? Why would the U.S. commit American resources to enforcing a U.N. resolution that is inconsistent with our stated policy goals and national interests?
  • In announcing that our Armed Forces would lead the preliminary strikes in Libya, you said it was necessary to "enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners." Do we know which partners will be taking the lead? Are there clear lines of authority and responsibility and a chain of command? Operationally, does enforcement of a no-fly zone require U.S. forces to attack non-air or command and control operations for land-based battlefield activities, such as armored vehicles, tanks, and combatants?
  • You have said that the support of the international community was critical to your decision to strike Libya. But, like many Americans, it appears many of our coalition partners are themselves unclear on the policy goals of this mission. If the coalition dissolves or partners continue to disengage, will the American military take on an increased role? Will we disengage?
  • Since the stated U.S. policy goal is removing Qadhafi from power, do you have an engagement strategy for the opposition forces? If the strife in Libya becomes a protracted conflict, what are your Administration's objectives for engaging with opposition forces, and what standards must a new regime meet to be recognized by our government?
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    Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.