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Ros-Lehtinen was for the Libya war before she was against it

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was a fierce advocate for military intervention in Libya right up until the Obama administration decided to attack the country, after which she became one of the war’s fiercest critics. "The United States and all responsible nations should show in both word and deed that we condemn ...

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was a fierce advocate for military intervention in Libya right up until the Obama administration decided to attack the country, after which she became one of the war's fiercest critics.

"The United States and all responsible nations should show in both word and deed that we condemn the Libyan regime's actions and that we will not tolerate such blatant disregard for human life and basic freedoms," she said in a Feb. 22 press release, shortly after protests broke out across the country.

"Additional U.S. and international measures should include the establishment and enforcement of a no-fly zone, a comprehensive arms embargo, a travel ban on regime officials, immediate suspension of all contracts and assistance which benefit the regime, and the imposition of restrictions on foreign investment in Libya, including in Libya's oil sector," she said in another press release four days later.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was a fierce advocate for military intervention in Libya right up until the Obama administration decided to attack the country, after which she became one of the war’s fiercest critics.

"The United States and all responsible nations should show in both word and deed that we condemn the Libyan regime’s actions and that we will not tolerate such blatant disregard for human life and basic freedoms," she said in a Feb. 22 press release, shortly after protests broke out across the country.

"Additional U.S. and international measures should include the establishment and enforcement of a no-fly zone, a comprehensive arms embargo, a travel ban on regime officials, immediate suspension of all contracts and assistance which benefit the regime, and the imposition of restrictions on foreign investment in Libya, including in Libya’s oil sector," she said in another press release four days later.

On March 15, President Barack Obama decided to support military intervention in Libya, and successfully pressed for a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the no-fly zone as well as any additional measures necessary to protect civilians. The resolution passed 10-0 on March 17; the following day, the attacks on Libya’s air defenses began, setting the stage for the no-fly zone.

On March 19, Ros-Lehtinen criticized the intervention in an interview with CBS Miami.

"The bottom line is you’ve gotta ask what is the U.S. security interest in getting involved in Libya," said Ros-Lehtinen. "Because there’s unrest everywhere. Today it’s Libya, tomorrow it will be somewhere else."

Two days later, she told Reuters, "Deferring to the United Nations and calling on our military personnel to enforce the ‘writ of the international community’ sets a dangerous precedent."

Ros-Lehtinen’s office said that she was upset with the Obama administration for its handling of the drive toward war in Libya, not the basic idea of a no-fly zone that she had supported.

"Suggesting a  no-fly zone as part of a range of options is not an endorsement of military action without a clearly defined mission and plan, without congressional consultation, and without a clear explanation of the national security interests at stake," her spokesman Brad Goehner told The Cable. "This is the president’s policy, and he needs to explain it to the American people and to Congress."

Ros-Lehtinen has backed up her demand for an explanation of the administration’s policy by calling for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify before her committee.

Still, her public statements call into question the pledge she made in a March 18 interview with Congressional Quarterly to support the administration’s Libya approach.

"Whatever the president decides, I will support what the president wants to do. I’m not going to Monday-morning-quarterback him," she said.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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