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The GOP candidates on the fall of Qaddafi

The NATO intervention in Libya was an early defining issue for the 2012 GOP field, dividing the party’s neoconservative wing from the new, more isolationist spirit embodied by the Tea Party. With the conflict now, seemingly, in its closing hours, a few of the candidates are already out of the gate with reactions. Rick Perry, ...

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The NATO intervention in Libya was an early defining issue for the 2012 GOP field, dividing the party's neoconservative wing from the new, more isolationist spirit embodied by the Tea Party. With the conflict now, seemingly, in its closing hours, a few of the candidates are already out of the gate with reactions. Rick Perry, a more committed hawk than many of his Tea Party compatriots, said that today's events are cause for "cautious celebration":

The lasting impact of events in Libya will depend on ensuring rebel factions form a unified, civil government that guarantees personal freedoms, and builds a new relationship with the West where we are allies instead of adversaries.

The statement makes no mention of the Western intervention or whether he believes President Obama played a constructive role. As Josh Rogin notes, Mitt Romney seems even less enthusiastic, pivoting quickly to Qaddafi's crimes of the 1980s:

The NATO intervention in Libya was an early defining issue for the 2012 GOP field, dividing the party’s neoconservative wing from the new, more isolationist spirit embodied by the Tea Party. With the conflict now, seemingly, in its closing hours, a few of the candidates are already out of the gate with reactions. Rick Perry, a more committed hawk than many of his Tea Party compatriots, said that today’s events are cause for "cautious celebration":

The lasting impact of events in Libya will depend on ensuring rebel factions form a unified, civil government that guarantees personal freedoms, and builds a new relationship with the West where we are allies instead of adversaries.

The statement makes no mention of the Western intervention or whether he believes President Obama played a constructive role. As Josh Rogin notes, Mitt Romney seems even less enthusiastic, pivoting quickly to Qaddafi’s crimes of the 1980s:

"The world is about to be rid of Muammar al-Qaddafi, the brutal tyrant who terrorized the Libyan people. It is my hope that Libya will now move toward a representative form of government that supports freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. As a first step, I call on this new government to arrest and extradite the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, so justice can finally be done,"

Jon Huntsman, who at this point can more realistically be considered a candidate for secretary of state, has opposed the intervention in past statements, but seemed much more positive than his rivals today:

"The impending fall of Colonel Gaddafi is one chapter in the developing story of a nation in turmoil. Gaddafi has been a longtime opponent of freedom, and I am hopeful – as the whole world should be – that his defeat is a step toward openness, democracy and human rights for a people who greatly deserve it."

Of the top GOP contenders, the most stridently anti-intervention have been Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul. As far as I can tell, neither has made statements yet today. The latest developments won’t change much for Paul or his supporters, who oppose humanitarian intervention on principle and would have still been against this war if it had toppled Qaddafi in a matter of hours and cost $20.

Things are a little more complicated for Bachmann, who has suggested that there are "elements of al Qaeda in North Africa and Hezbollah in the opposition forces" and has accused the administration of "creating a toehold for al Qaeda in North Africa to take over Libya." Will she stick to that characterization now that the rebels are in power?

As for Newt Gingrich, who was for intervening before he was against it, we haven’t anything from Maui quite yet.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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