Rubio to State Dep't spokesman: Why did we wait for the UN to act against Qaddafi? Update: Congress briefed on war plans

Via the Right Scoop, I’d be miiiighty curious to see some new polling on what tea partiers think of his defense of unilateral interventionism for chiefly humanitarian reasons. Not all TPers are Paulian isolationists, and I’ll bet most fully support unilateral action when it’s in America’s interests, but a movement devoted to cutting spending can’t be uniformly thrilled with another “world policeman” excursion. And yet here’s one of the base’s two or three most favorite senators passionately making the case in favor. I guess Politico was right that neoconservatism is still on top.

“The United States, quite frankly, looks weak in this endeavor,” said Rubio. “It looks unwilling, and maybe even unable, to act in this capacity….What are we going to do if there’s a bloodbath after this? The president of the United States has specifically said Qaddafi must go, but has done nothing since saying that, except have internal debates about it for a week-and-a half or two.”…

“So our message to the dissidents,” Rubio said, “the people with the bravery to stand up to Muammar Qaddafi, and then the people maybe thinking to stand up to the Iranian regime, and in other places, our message is: ‘You guys go ahead and do this stuff, and if we can ever get the Russians or the Chinese to ever come around, we may or may not join you’?

“Russia and China don’t care about this stuff,” Rubio continued. “They don’t care that Muammar Qaddafi is going to massacre people. So if Russia doesn’t care, and China doesn’t care, and we care but won’t do anything about it, who is it up to – the French?”

I can’t tell if he’s arguing that NATO should act on this and not bother with the Security Council or if he thinks we should act alone, even without help from NATO or a “coalition of the willing.” Presumably it’s the latter, per his crack about the French, which makes this an ultra-unilateralist argument. Is that what the public wants? Here’s some new polling just across from Fox News — and it even has tea party numbers:

The question’s imprecise. The public is surely more likely to back an air campaign than a “military” campaign, which implies all sorts of assets, including ground troops. But the result’s still interesting: The tea party is the single most supportive demographic of “military” action, yet even they’re at net -15. Can’t wait to see how this issue ends up playing in the primaries, especially if the war in Libya drags on and/or the new rebel government lurches towards ye olde reliable anti-American demagoguery.

Exit question: Is Obama planning to ask Congress for an Authorization to Use Military Force? If not, why not? There’ll be plenty of votes available from Republican hawks, and Democrats won’t undermine The One at a critical moment. Besides, they can always repudiate their votes later if things get messy. After all, they’ve had plenty of practice.

Update: I wondered in this afternoon’s post whether Tunisia or Egypt would help police the no-fly zone. Answer: No. But:

Egypt’s military has begun shipping arms over the border to Libyan rebels with Washington’s knowledge, U.S. and Libyan rebel officials said…

The Egyptian shipments are the strongest indication to date that some Arab countries are heeding Western calls to take a lead in efforts to intervene on behalf of pro-democracy rebels in their fight against Mr. Gadhafi in Libya. Washington and other Western countries have long voiced frustration with Arab states’ unwillingness to help resolve crises in their own region, even as they criticized Western powers for attempting to do so.

Update: Not just a no-fly zone, but a no-drive zone.

Several senators emerged from the briefing convinced that the administration was intent on beginning military action against the forces of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi within the next few days and that such action would include both a no-fly zone as well as a “no-drive zone” to prevent Qaddafi from crushing the rebel forces, especially those now concentrated in Benghazi.

“It looks like we have Arab countries ready to participate in a no-fly and no-drive endeavor,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters after the briefing…

Asked exactly what the first wave of attacks would look like, Graham said, “We ground his aircraft and some tanks start getting blown up that are headed toward the opposition forces.”

Update: Middle East analyst and former Army Ranger Andrew Exum wonders where we go from here:

What happens if Gadhafi pulls back? Do we continue to try and press the advantage of the rebels until his government falls? Do we have the authorization to do that? Do we expect a civil war in Libya to drag out, and if so, how will we take sides? If Gadhafi falls, what comes next? What will the new Libyan government look like? Will they be friendly to U.S. interests? Someone please tell me how this ends.

A lot of the things I have been reading have been along the lines of, “After the dictator falls, everything will be alright,” which sounds awfully familiar to Iraq ’03 veterans. I would hope that this time around, we are planning Phase IV and have a clear vision for how stabilization and reconstruction should go.

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