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The Nation

March 11, 2011

Libya poses difficult question for candidates



"Every day that goes by, every hour that goes by, innocent Libyans are being attacked and massacred from the air," says McCain.

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations panel, has become the top GOP advocate for moderation. The U.S. should not "launch military intervention into yet another Muslim country, without thinking long and hard about the consequences and implications," Lugar says.

Until the last few days, Libya was hardly mentioned by prospective presidential contenders.

Palin was one of the first potential candidates to speak out, suggesting in a Feb. 23 Facebook entry that the White House was voicing more sympathy for earthquake victims in New Zealand than for Libyans calling for an end to Gadhafi's 42-year-rule.

"We should not be afraid of freedom, especially when it comes to people suffering under a brutal enemy of America," she wrote, also suggesting NATO establish a no-fly zone "so Libyan air forces cannot continue slaughtering the Libyan people." She has not had much to say on Libya since.

Gingrich, Pawlenty and Santorum all came out this week for a no-fly zone of one form of another.

Gingrich, the most outspoken, said the U.S. should impose one immediately— without waiting for the U.N. or NATO. Pawlenty told reporters Obama failed to offer a timely condemnation of a "sociopathic killer" mowing down his own people. Santorum told a Des Moines radio station: "Ronald Reagan bombed Libya. If you want to be Reaganesque, it seems the path is pretty clear here."

President Reagan launched U.S. airstrikes on Libya in 1986 after a bombing at a Berlin disco — which the U.S. blamed on Libya — that killed three people, including two American soldiers. The airstrikes killed about 100 people in Libya, including Gadhafi's young adopted daughter at his Tripoli compound.

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