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Obama's speech on Libya leaves GOP wanting

President Obama delivers his address on Libya at the National Defense University in Washington, March 28, 2011.
AP

Republican reaction to President Obama's speech on U.S. intervention in Libya came in two primary themes.

Some members of the Grand Old Party accuse Mr. Obama of waiting too long to help rebel forces in the north African nation, and now failing to aim the might of the U.S. military directly at long-time ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

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Others, however, argue the U.S. should not even intervene in a conflict that does not directly affect U.S. national security.

"When our men and women in uniform are sent into harm's way, Americans and troops deserve a clear mission from our commander in chief, not a speech nine days late," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Armed Services Committee and head of the Senate Republicans' political arm.

"President Obama failed to explain why he unilaterally took our nation to war without bothering to make the case to the U.S. Congress."

Cornyn chastised the Commander in Chief for acknowledging in his speech that Qaddafi, "must go, but refusing to do what it takes to remove him."

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Pointing to the Iraq war as an example, Mr. Obama said engaging U.S. troops in a ground war, or otherwise attempting to force Qaddafi out of office military, would cost too much in lives and money.

Mr. Obama said that while the "world will be better off with Qaddafi out of power," broadening the U.S. mission to include regime change would be a "mistake." He allowed that he and other world leaders would pursue regime change in Libya through "non-military means."

"I welcome the President's clarity that the U.S. goal is for Qaddafi to leave power," said Sen. John McCain, R-AZ in a written statement. "But an equal amount of clarity is still required on how we will accomplish that goal."

"The United States and our allies must continue to take 'all necessary measures' to compel Qaddafi to leave power, as called for in UN Security Council Resolution 1973," added McCain. "That means providing material support to opposition forces in Libya while continuing to target Qaddafi's forces in the field. We are not neutral in the outcome of the fighting in Libya. We have chosen a side against Qaddafi, and now we must help the opposition succeed."

But another Republican Senator, Rob Portman of Ohio -- who, like McCain and Cornyn, sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee -- seemed less amenable to Mr. Obama's ambition of ushering Qaddafi out of power, and questioned the need for any U.S. involvement in the conflict at all.

"President Obama has yet to justify our involvement in Libya; even Defense Secretary Gates said the involvement was not in our vital national security interest," said Portman.

"Tonight's speech left many questions unanswered," Portman said, adding that he looked forward to questioning members of the President's cabinet on "the national security rationale" behind the U.S. intervention.