The Cable

Clinton: Libya no-fly zone under active consideration

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that the administration is actively considering implementing a no-fly zone over Libya and gave a full-throated defense of robust State Department funding. Clinton testified on Tuesday morning before the House Foreign Affairs Committee led by Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who has been critical of the administration’s response ...

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that the administration is actively considering implementing a no-fly zone over Libya and gave a full-throated defense of robust State Department funding.

Clinton testified on Tuesday morning before the House Foreign Affairs Committee led by Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who has been critical of the administration’s response to the unfolding events in the Arab world and has pledged to slash the State Department and foreign aid budgets this year.

Clinton had just returned from Geneva, where she met with other foreign ministers under the auspices of the U.N. Human Rights Council. She said preparations were underway to aid the Libyan opposition, but that there have been no final decisions on whether or how to use the U.S. military to support the ouster of Muammar al-Qaddafi, as world leaders have called for.

"We are working to translate the world’s outrage into action and results," Clinton said, highlighting that USAID is sending two teams, one each to Egypt and Tunisia, to aid the humanitarian response to the flow of refugees coming from Libya.

The United States has moved the USS Enterprise carrier strike group to the area near Libya. Clinton said that military assets are being repositioned now to support the humanitarian mission there, but that direct military intervention remained a possibility.

"One of those actions under review is a no fly zone… it is under active consideration," said Clinton.

She also vigorously defended the State Department’s budgets for both fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012. Under the current House bill to fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2011, the State Department would face a 16 percent cut from its original request.

Those cuts "would be devastating for our national security," Clinton said. "It would force us to dramatically scale back our missions in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq that are vital for national security."

Howard Berman (D-CA), the committee’s ranking Democrat, agreed. He said the cuts were "simply a slash and burn process" that had no consideration for the benefits of foreign aid and would hurt congressional oversight.

"Aid to others isn’t a gift. The United States supports other countries because it’s in our interests," Berman said.

Ros-Lehtinen said the dismal fiscal situation of the U.S. government mandated cuts in the international affairs budget and proposed a litmus test for future aid gifts.

"We are the most generous nation in the world, and foreign aid should go to those countries that are friendly to us," Ros-Lehtinen said. 

Clinton responded that the United States needed to compete with other powers for influence in countries that may not currently support U.S. foreign policy, and said the president’s fiscal 2012 budget for international affairs responded to the need for fiscal prudence.

"We scrubbed this budget and made painful but responsible cuts," she said. "These missions are vital to national security and I believe with all my heart that this would be the wrong time to pull back."

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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