Sen. Richard Lugar tells Newsmax that the United States should not take military action to intervene in the ongoing struggles in Libya unless Congress is prepared to issue a declaration of war.
The longtime Indiana legislator, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also declares that ousting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is not a “vital interest” of America, and says that President Barack Obama’s reversal of course in deciding to resume military trials of terrorists at Guantanamo Bay is a vindication of the policy of President George W. Bush.
Lugar was first elected in 1976 and is the most senior Republican in the Senate.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Lugar discussed calls from some in Washington to intervene militarily in Libya or at least enforce a no-fly zone to counter Gadhafi’s air attacks on rebels.
“I advocate that we for the moment do not take action of a military nature unless we’re prepared to declare war,” Lugar says.
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“I’ve stated candidly and openly that we are not in favor of any one of the opposition groups in Libya. Thoughts have been that with our aircraft we might shoot down Gadhafi’s aircraft, at risk of course to our aircraft, clearly an act of war on our part.
“We are going to have to very carefully sift through the winners and losers in all these Middle Eastern battles, and then decide on constructive action we can take so that we are not perceived as interfering and therefore jeopardizing the groups we hope are going to be reforming” their countries.
While removing Gadhafi is “not a vital interest” of the United States, Lugar says “it would be a good thing if he were to resign and leave. And that might be true of a number of executives in Middle Eastern countries.
“But for us to take a situation now and try to create a third Middle Eastern war, or a fourth or a fifth, I think requires a declaration of war by the Congress, a debate [so that it’s] very clear to the American people what we are doing, as opposed to trying to pick off various people we do not like.”
President Obama has now changed his policy and says he will keep the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay open and resume terrorist trials there. Asked if that vindicates President Bush’s policy regarding Gitmo, Lugar responds: “It is a good idea to have military tribunals involved in these trials. It is a good idea to keep the Gitmo facilities open. So to the extent that these are positions that President Bush took, they are a vindication of those ideas.
“I believe President Bush was correct. To the extent that President Obama has reversed course, I would commend that reversal.”
However, Lugar is critical of Obama’s policies on energy and his administration’s resolve to sharply curtail new offshore oil drilling.
“The policies of the president have not been constructive,” he tells Newsmax, “with regard to production of American energy, oil and gas, resources that could have come from offshore drilling, from work with Canadian friends on a Canadian pipeline, from ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge].
“The administration has not been adept, to say the least, at encouraging these American sources, nor alternative energy sources.”
Before the Middle East unrest pushed gasoline prices higher, analysts had predicted a spike in prices due to increased worldwide demand — yet the Obama administration did not take steps to prepare for the rise, Lugar observes.
“I don’t think the White House has been prepared. Furthermore I think analysts are correct that given the huge increase in the gross national product and prosperity of China and India, there is bound to be huge demand for oil and natural gas and coal.”
The immediate step the administration should take is “to declare that we are going to drill offshore.”
Lugar also says that in light of the huge budget deficit, the federal government needs to cut spending by more than the $61 billion proposed by Republicans in the House.
He declares that his fellow Indiana Republican, Gov. Mitch Daniels, would make “an outstanding president” if he chooses to run, given the “fiscal prudence” he has demonstrated as governor.
And as Lugar looks toward a re-election campaign in 2012, he says his main concerns are looming worldwide food shortages amid rising populations, and control of weapons of mass destruction.
“I’m still working to reduce the number of warheads aimed at the United States right now, and likewise to reduce the possibilities of very bad either accidents or deliberate acts of provocation with chemical or biological warfare,” he adds.
“That is a quest that has gone on for many years. I would like to continue it.”
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