Corker questions Libya policy

Corker questions Libya policy

April 24th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

As a U.S. Senate candidate in August 2006, Bob Corker promoted the Republican Party line on the war in Iraq, urging civilians to listen to generals on the ground and opposing a timetable for the removal of American troops.

"We've got a country that needs to be stabilized so that the Middle East does not end up being totally destabilized," he said at the time.

This year, with a Democratic president pushing American military involvement in another Middle Eastern powder keg - Libya - Tennessee's junior senator has abandoned the go-with-it approach.

On April 5, Corker sent a letter to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, requesting hearings to examine the president's war powers.

Nine days later, Corker wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to get information on "the operations and political future of Libya," according to a news release from his office in Washington, D.C.

Speaking to Chattanooga Times Free Press reporters and editors last week, Corker said the conflict in Libya should not be compared to the one in Iraq and denied playing politics.

"I'm not sure I understand the national interest [in Libya]," Corker said. "I want to be a voice out there saying, 'Wait a minute - we don't even know the opposition.'"

Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Puttbrese said those sentiments also could be applied to Iraq. He criticized the senator for "cherry-picking his arguments."

"It's inconsistent at best," Puttbrese said. "There is broad support internationally to do something in Libya. He's taking easy shots at Obama because [the president] is a Democrat."

"Corker's been a senator since 2006, and he's never been a vocal opponent of any military action that I remember," Puttbrese said. "This makes him seem even more political."

In March, after several weeks of rebel uprisings against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the United Nations Security Council approved military action in Libya, authorizing American and European forces to launch the largest series of air attacks since the Iraq war.

Since then, results have moved toward a stalemate, posing the question of how much the American military will back up NATO forces supporting the rebels.

Corker said that could be tricky, considering an already busy, "nation-building" military in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"If France and Great Britain, with some help from Qatar, cannot deal with Libya, I mean, we've got some problems," he said.

Since 2001, more than 5,900 U.S. troops have died in fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to, a website that tracks military deaths. There have been no American casualties in Libya in the current action.