Yarmuth says Hillary Clinton changed his mind on U.S. involvement in war in Libya

06/30/2011 06:48 PM

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said he was about to disagree publicly with President Barack Obama for the second time in a week on foreign policy issues when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton changed his mind on the need for military action in Libya.

“I was prepared to vote against the president last week. I thought that it was time to send a message that we shouldn’t be there,” Yarmuth said in an interview this week on Pure Politics (at the 4:35 mark of the video).

Then Clinton came to Capitol Hill to talk to congressional Democrats.

“And she made an incredibly compelling case to me,” Yarmuth said. “The most compelling point to me was: we now are part of an unprecedented coalition that involves countries that have never been with us before, including China by the way (and) the Arab League of Nations.”

He said Clinton said it was important long-term to be part of that coalition in the Middle East because of the volatility and uncertainty in other countries, most notably Syria and Yemen.

“If we need that coalition a year from now or two years from now, we can’t walk away from it now,” he said she told them.

The NATO forces have been supporting Libyan rebels against dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who is accused of killing his own people to keep power.

Yarmuth acknowledged that even though U.S. troops aren’t on the ground, the military’s role still constitutes going to war.

“I think we are certainly part of a coalition that is fighting a war,” Yarmuth said at the 4:15 mark. “Yes, I guess that’s a yes.”

So why did that coalition get involved in Libya even though similar atrocities are happening elsewhere, such as Syria? Hear Yarmuth’s answer at the 6:10 mark of the video.

Had Yarmuth voted last Thursday to limit the U.S. involvement in Libya, it would have been the second time that week he would have crossed the Obama administration on foreign policy.

Yarmuth was among a bipartisan coalition in Congress who signed a letter urging the administration to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan faster than the rate the president announced last Tuesday.

Obama has called for bringing back 10,000 of the 100,000 troops starting this summer and another 23,000 by the end of next year.

“We need to understand the mission very clearly. We have to have metrics for deciding what success looks like. And we have to have an exit strategy. He’s failed to provide those things,” Yarmuth said in his criticism of the president. (see the :45 mark of the clip)

Even in Obama’s recent speech about the troop withdrawal, Yarmuth said the mission objective remained murky. The congressman said he truly respects the troops and the job they’ve done in Afghanistan, saying they’ve performed beautifully. But they’re fighting a battle that has never been won historically.

“People have been trying to take over Afghanistan for thousands of years. It never works. There is no viable nation there. We’re trying to create one where no one has ever existed,” Yarmuth said. (see the 2:07 mark of the clip)

It was a rare instance in which Yarmuth was on the same side with Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

But Yarmuth doesn’t expect political pressure from conservatives or progressives to be what changes the speed of withdrawal of troops.

“I think the controlling factor is that a significant majority of the American people want us out of there. They don’t see the rationale for our continued presence there.
And the cost of lives and lives changed permanently and $100 billion a year,” Yarmuth said. “When the American people don’t support a war effort, it’s not sustainable.” (see the 3:20 mark of the clip)


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