Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch is blasting President Obama for joining yesterday’s international air assault on Libya, saying he is “very, very troubled’’ by the decision to commit military assets to what Lynch considers a “civil war.’’
“I think generally under the Constitution, there has to be a direct threat to U.S. national security,” said Lynch, of South Boston. “I don’t see anything that would warrant the type of commitment we’ve made.’’
A 22-country coalition backed by the Arab League and the U.N. Security Council started bombing Moammar Gadhafi’s forces after the dictator defied a U.N. resolution demanding a cease-fire.
The United States fired more than 100 cruise missiles from Navy vessels in the Mediterranean to enforce a no-fly zone while French fighter jets targeted Gadhafi’s forces from the air in the largest international military action since the Iraq War eight years ago. The United States said 20 sites were hit. Libyan state TV claimed 48 people had been killed in the attacks, but the report could not be independently verified.
“This is completely gratuitous,’’ Lynch said. “You would think being in the middle of two wars, we might be reluctant to commit to a third military action.”
Obama said military action was not his first choice.
“This is not an outcome the U.S. or any of our partners sought,” Obama said from Brazil, where he is starting a five-day visit to Latin America. “We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville) said Obama should have sought congressional approval.
“I would like to hear why we would be taking military action here” and not elsewhere, Capuano told the Herald. “That doesn’t mean I would oppose it. But most of the military actions in my lifetime have not been worth the effort.”
Other members of the Massachusetts delegation — including U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield) — supported the strikes.
“Based on the continued violence in Libya, it is very clear that Gadhafi never intended to abide by the U.N.-mandated cease-fire imposed to protect his own citizens,” Brown said in a statement. “He now needs to realize that every action has consequences.”
Experts said America should be worried about how long the conflict could last.
“You have to be concerned it drags on and we get more deeply involved,’’ said defense expert John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org. “You have to be concerned that the coalition might turn out to be politically shaky and it could fall apart.”
Neil Livingstone, CEO of international risk management firm ExecutiveAction, said the coalition should be negotiating with Gadhafi to arrange free elections and a cease-fire with the rebels, not bombing.
“The air strikes just aggravate the situation right now,” he said. “Ten days ago, they could have turned it around. The rebels had the momentum, but they don’t today.”
Hours before the no-fly zone took effect, Gadhafi sent warplanes, tanks and troops into Benghazi, the rebel capital. .
Gadhafi, remaining defiant, said in a telephone call to Libyan state TV that he was opening weapons depots to allow his people to defend themselves. He called the international action, “simply a colonial crusader aggression that may ignite another large-scale crusader war.”
Security experts agreed there is little risk to U.S. troops because they are not flying planes over the country.
Pike, the defense expert, believes U.S. military will likely provide high-tech planes and limited intelligence gathering on the ground as the allies attempt to dismantle Libya’s air- defense system.
It’s unknown what will happen after that, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Kevin T. Ryan, executive director for research at Harvard’s Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
“It’s not clear at all what the long-term needs are going to be,” Ryan said. “What we are doing today is we are taking sides and we are siding with opposition, and with that goes some implied commitments.”