Hillary Clinton on Libya: “Nothing is Off the Table”

Hillary Clinton speaking in Geneva (Fox News)

CNN: From Geneva, Switzerland yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that

“nothing is off the table” as the United States works with allies to stop the bloodshed in Libya where embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi struggles to remain in power. But as the Pentagon confirms that the United States is “repositioning” naval and air forces to be prepared for any option with Libya, Secretary Clinton said there is no pending U.S. naval actions planned against Libya. “We do believe that there will be the need for support for humanitarian intervention,” she said when asked about the reports.


Clinton’s remarks come as she meets with European Union ministers. Monday the EU agreed to impose economic sanctions on Libya, including an arms embargo, freezing Ghadaffi’s assets and banning travel to Libya. This is the latest action after the United States announced similar sanctions Friday.

Speaking to reporters, Clinton said that U.S. humanitarian teams have been sent to Libya’s borders of Tunisia and Egypt. Clinton said USAID has set aside an additional $10 million for humanitarian aid including much needed medical supplies.

Today, Hillary was back in Washington, and she went to Capital Hill to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and argued, in so many words, that cutting diplomatic funds to deal with foreign crises would be penny-wise and pound foolish

The comments came a day after the US began repositioning warships and military aircraft in the Libya region.

Mrs Clinton repeated demands that Col Muammar Gaddafi “must go now, without further violence or delay”.

“The entire [Middle East] region is changing, and a strong and strategic American response will be essential, Mrs Clinton said to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in prepared testimony.

“In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy, or it could face protracted civil war. The stakes are high.

Voice of America provided more information on from Hillary’s Congressional testimony:

Clinton said the U.S. is sending humanitarian and military teams to help those fleeing Libya for Tunisia and Egypt. She called the situation in Libya an example of how the State Department must use diplomatic resources to sustain and advance U.S. security.

Clinton’s testimony comes as the U.S. Congress battles over the country’s proposed budget, with some lawmakers demanding deep cuts in spending. But she warned members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that reductions in diplomatic spending could come at a high cost.

She said a failure to fund civilian missions in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq could cause military gains to erode or be erased.

Clinton said shifting responsibilities from military to civilian efforts saves money. She said the U.S. military’s total worldwide request dropped by $45 billion from 2010, while the State Department’s cost will increase by less than $4 billion.

It sounds like the US and other Western countries are nearing a decision about whether to intervene in some way in the carnage in Libya. On Al Jazeera there has been more talk of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, but a number of commentators have pointed out that this would be a very serious step. It means that those enforcing the no-fly zone would be committed to shooting down violators. It would also mean taking out Libya’s air defenses. In other words, it means military action in Libya.

It will be interesting to see what the next step will be. It certainly does feel as we are building toward something serious.

26 Comments on “Hillary Clinton on Libya: “Nothing is Off the Table””

  1. bostonboomer says:

    There is so much happening in the Middle East right now. In Iran, opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi and their wives have been arrested and no one knows for sure what has happened to them.

    There are protests going on in Morocco, Yemen, leaders resigning in Tunsia, and in Saudi Arabia, the king is trying to bribe his people with promises of reform.

    It’s just amazing!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Al Jazeera’s “director general” says “we saw the uprisings coming,” why didn’t Western governments and media?

    • Interestingly enough, Hillary did warn of the unrest… but I doubt Western govts and media were listening. The MSM chose Obama to be the voice that everyone listens to… lot of good it has done.

      Hillary in the Gulf, January 13, 2011… Day before Ben Ali fled…

      Each country, of course, has its own distinct challenges, and each its own achievements. But in too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere. And that goal brings us to this Forum.

      I believe that the leaders of this region, in partnership with their people, have the capacity to build that stronger foundation. There are enough models and examples in the region to point to, to make the economic and social reforms that will create jobs, respect the right of diversity to exist, create more economic opportunity, encourage entrepreneurship, give citizens the skills they need to succeed, to make the political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives.

      So to my friends, the leaders of these countries, I would say: You can help build a future that your young people will believe in, stay for, and defend. Some of you are already demonstrating that. But for others it will take new visions, new strategies and new commitments. It is time to see civil society not as a threat, but as a partner. And it is time for the elites in every society to invest in the futures of their own countries.

      Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while, but not forever. If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum. Extremist elements, terrorist groups, and others who would prey on desperation and poverty are already out there, appealing for allegiance and competing for influence. So this is a critical moment, and this is a test of leadership for all of us.

      • imho the Obama Admin is flunking the test so far.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks for that, Wonk. It figures Hillary was talking about it.

      • Peggy Sue says:

        That’s an extremely mature and reasoned statement by someone with her feet firmly planted on the ground, someone who is extraordinarily knowledgeable. For me, the sweet spot of the statement is here:

        “And it is time for the elites in every society to invest in the futures of their own countries.”

        And this is why I want to barf every time someone says that American policy [foreign and domestic] would be no different under Clinton than it presently is under Obama.

        He can’t even get a well-reasoned statement to come out of his mouth. Let alone demonstrate he has any principles. Other than getting reelected, that is.


      • Well sadly I don’t think Hillary would have been too much better on Egypt…I think she’d have pushed for stability and Suleiman. But, she would have been a lot firmer and drawn lines in the sand much sooner. Mostly she’d have made the difference on the domestic economy, so we’d have been stronger and been challenging the US empire and war machine more. imho.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Well said, Peggy Sue.

  3. Dario says:

    I can’t believe that the left seems happy that the U.S. and other nations may get involved in Libya. Just because we don’t like Gaddafi it doesn’t mean it’s right to get into that civil war. It’s a civil war now. Defectors from the armed forces are fighting the factions that still support Gaddafi. That’s a rebellion, and it should be handled by the Libyan people no matter how bloody. Hussein and Gaddafi are not people to be supported, but when it was convenient and there was money to be made the U.S. and the U.K. supported both dictators. Libya has no debt, and loads of money. The U.S. just froze $30 billion and I guess that money won’t be returned until the government of Libya is acceptable to the U.S. Until now, assets that the U.S. held for Iran before the revolution has not been given back.

    According to wikipedia:

    After the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran, the United States froze about $12 billion in Iranian assets, including bank deposits, gold and other properties. According to American officials, most of those were released in 1981 as part of the deal to release the hostages. Some assets—Iranian officials say $10 billion, U.S. officials say much less—remain frozen, pending resolution of legal claims arising from the Revolution.

  4. dakinikat says:

    I’m glad they’re finally discussing the no fly zone option. That’s what the people have been asking for and that would stop some of the carnage.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Most of Gaddafi’s ground forces have gone over to the other side, and the revolutionay groups have commandeered a lot of his equipment. So just about all he has left is the helicopters and jets. It might be a good idea to shut those down, but I don’t think Obama wants to do it unilaterally. He is certainly under a lot of pressure though, because the Brits are getting more vocal.

    • Peggy Sue says:

      I’ve heard the same thing. Libyians are requesting the ‘no-fly’ but are not interested in US ground troop and/or missle intervention. It’s a sticky wicket because if we go ahead and provide that no-fly cover, we could get caught in the crosshairs of a much larger mess. Shooting down planes is serious business.

      • Pilgrim says:

        Problem is U.S. wouldn’t necessarily stop with no-fly. They would get more and more and more involved, as is their wont. They are good at getting into conflicts, not good at getting out. They consider themselves the world’s police.

        The humanitarian issue seems like a good argument. But there are humanitarian issues all over the world. What about China. The U.S. would never try that on. Only powers smaller than themselves.

        And they could consider paying more heed to humanitarian issues in their own country. But if it doesn’t come within the rubric of something military, they’re not so competent.

      • dakinikat says:

        I’m assuming it would be a deterrent to some pilots. Maybe it should be a NATO thing or a UN thing because that way we’d at least have cover if we did shoot some one down. But, better one pilot than bombing thousands of citizens.

  5. paper doll says:

    There’s oil in Libya…we, and Europe will go there to protect it

  6. paper doll says:

    The difference between Hillary and Obama…well one of many , is she’s a leader who can act. He’s a poll glacing, bandwagon passenger who’s main interest is partying….that slows down your response time considerable. Unfortunately we are being “lead” by the partying passenger

    • Pilgrim says:

      well said

      I do not put much stock in Hillaryd would be no different

      She would be different. Not perfect in every way, but not so darn unsatisfying in every way.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Democracy Now interview with Libyan American who just returned from visit there with his family.


  8. Minkoff Minx says:

    BB, Do you see the difference between Egypt and Libya? Egypt there was no mass exodus of refugees…yet: Chaos at Libyan-Tunisian border – Africa – Al Jazeera English

    The number of people fleeing violence and chaos in Libya has topped 140,000, with about half of them entering Tunisia.

    Aid workers warned on Tuesday that the situation at the border with Tunisia has reached a crisis point, as border guards were firing into the air, trying to control crowds pressing to get through the Ras Jdir crossing.

    Immigration officers were struggling to keep up with the mass exodus as people were pressed up against a concrete wall dividing the no man’s land between the Libyan and Tunisian border posts. At intervals, Tunisian border guards would open a blue metal gate to let a small group through.

  9. Minkoff Minx says:

    Libyans March West as Battle Lines Harden – WSJ.com

    A convoy of armed youth, including what appeared to be rebel military forces, was seen heading Tuesday night toward the pro-Gadhafi stronghold city of Sirte, witnesses said. The forces were viewed passing westward through Ajdabiya, a city about 75 miles from the opposition stronghold of Benghazi, said four residents, including a volunteer rebel soldier and an official on the city’s local leadership council. It was unclear how many rebels were on the move.

    Also Tuesday, the U.S. ordered two warships and 1200 Marines to the waters off of Libya, but a top Obama administration official stopped short of saying the forces would intervene in the clashes that have consumed the country following anti-Gadhafi protests here in recent weeks.