Kirk: Arm Rebels

Article excerpt

Byline: From Daily Herald news services

Sen. Mark Kirk says Libyan rebels should be given weapons to help them quickly overthrow Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

"I think we should help the (rebel) government to win this war," the State Journal-Register of Springfield reports Kirk saying during a visit to the 183rd Fighter Wing's engine repair facility at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. "We should take our advice from (Civil War) General (William) Sherman. When you're in a conflict, make it rough, make it violent, so that it is over quickly."

The Highland Park Republican says furnishing weapons will help end the Libyan war and limit costs for the United States and its allies.

"If we win this war as fast as possible it will cost less," he said. "It will create less turmoil in the Arab world and it will calm international economies."

NATO and some nations say an arms embargo rules out providing weapons to the

Libyan rebels. But President Barack Obama's administration suggests arming them might be an option.

Kirk said the U.S. is right to intervene in Libya, but ground troops shouldn't be sent.

"I support the president's mission," the Journal-Register quoted Kirk saying. "But I hope that he follows more rigorously the Colin Powell doctrine."

"That's to have the enemy hit with overwhelming force. To appoint one allied commander. To outline a clear mission, which I believe should be the protection of the civilians in Libya by the end of the Gadhafi dictatorship, which I think is the only real way to protect them."

Kirk rejected the notion that there are al-Qaida sympathizers among the rebels trying to bring down Libya's regime.

"I think much of that information comes out of the Gadhafi dictatorship," Kirk said. "He has generated a lot of those reports because he knows it's a hot button with western governments and especially the United States. I think what we have really seen is a spontaneous uprising."

Kirk also says the United States should recognize the rebels as the legitimate representatives of Libya's people, as France has done.

U.S. political and military leaders said this week they're unwilling to start providing arms and training for rebels fighting against Gadhafi. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there are "plenty of countries who have the ability, the arms, the skill set to be able to do this." Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. doesn't know enough about the insurgent groups beyond a "handful" of leaders.

"The rebels need more heavy weapons," said Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Brussels and a former analyst at the NATO Defense College. "They need simple stuff not high-tech weaponry that requires extensive training and would be dangerous if it fell into terrorist hands."

Meanwhile, the Pentagon will soon stop firing Tomahawk cruise missiles against Libya, in addition to pulling its attack planes out of the international air campaign, two U.S. defense officials said Friday.

Gates and Mullen on Thursday announced in congressional testimony the decision to withdraw U.S. combat aircraft from the NATO-commanded mission as of this coming Sunday.

After the U.S. stand-down takes effect Sunday, Navy ships and submarines armed with Tomahawks will remain in the Mediterranean in position to resume firing if requested by NATO and approved by the Pentagon, the officials said. U.S. attack aircraft at land bases in Italy and aboard a Navy amphibious ship will also be at the ready, the officials said. …