Senator McCain Expresses Support for Removing Qaddafi from Power in Speech to The Ripon Society

Also predicts “Arab Spring” may spread to other parts of the world

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator John McCain, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the 2008 Republican Presidential nominee, spoke to a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society this morning, delivering a speech in which he not only expressed his support for removing Libyan Dictator Muammar Qaddafi from power, but predicted that the popular uprisings taking place in North Africa and the Middle East may spread to other parts of the world, as well.

“First of all,” McCain stated, “I think it’s important to point out that if — a little over three weeks ago — we had declared a no-fly zone, Qaddafi would either be in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez, in Hell with Stalin and Hitler, or he would be in the International Criminal Court. That was a great opportunity. We didn’t take it … Yet at the same time, I strongly support the President’s decision to declare the no-fly zone. There’s a lot of ambiguity about exactly what the mission is. But it did prevent what would have been a massacre in Benghazi. All you had to do was listen to what Qaddafi said. He said, ‘We’ll go house to house and we’ll kill whoever we think are our opponents.’ So it prevented another Srebrenica.”

“Unfortunately,” McCain continued, “the President seems to be as intent, or more intent, in getting out of this than in seeing it through to a successful conclusion. As of 6:00 this morning, American airpower is out of Libya – right when the rebels are being driven further and further back and, I would suggest, at exactly the wrong time. Yes, the Qaddafi forces have adopted some pick-up trucks rather than tanks and all that. But you know, you can tell pretty well when a pick-up truck is going east or west. And the whole issue that the President has authorized covert action on the ground — we found out in Afghanistan that you do need people on the ground to identify targets. I’m not particularly opposed to that … I think the key here is, ‘Are we going to do what’s necessary to take the anti-Qaddafi rebels all the way to Tripoli and eject him?’

“The worst scenario would be a stalemate where Qaddafi remains in power in the West, and the anti-Qaddafi forces in the East. Because I can assure you that Qaddafi would do everything in his power to seek revenge on us through support of terrorist organizations, which he has done before. It would be a huge setback in a broad variety of ways. If he succeeds in surviving, it would send a message to people like Bashar al-Assad and others that you don’t want to make the mistake that the Egyptian Army did and that Mubarek did. So it’s a very important time here.”

In addition to the military role the U.S. is playing, McCain also touched on the importance of America playing an economic role, as well – a role, he said, that could help dispel some of the distrust that has built up against the United States in the region over the years.

“The one thing they want in Tunisia,” he stated, “and the one thing they want in Egypt, is American investment. We could have free trade agreements with them. We could have trade preference agreements with them. They are very skeptical about us in Egypt because they think we supported Mubarek for too long. They’re not interested in us dictating to them what they should do. But they sure do want our economic assistance and help. And whether these new governments, as they come into being, succeed or fail will be directly related to the economy.”

McCain mentioned that he had met with some of the young people who helped organize the protests in Cairo. During the meeting, he recalled, one of the organizers pulled out a Blackberry and told the Arizona Senator that he could get 200,000 people in Tahir Square in three hours. Recalling that moment, McCain stated that, “Facebook and Twitter have had a huge impact on the whole thing. Social networking is a phenomena.”

To that end, McCain expressed his belief that the popular uprisings being seen in the Middle East and North Africa could spread to other nations around the globe.

“I am absolutely convinced that this Arab Spring may not be confined just to the Arab world,” he declared. “I think the Chinese are a lot more nervous than they were. I think Vladmir Putin is a little less comfortable. We may see these changes not only in the Arab world, but in other parts of the world as well. So these are interesting and challenging times. But what an opportunity! What an opportunity to give people a chance at democracy and freedom — something that we’ve always asserted are everyone’s God-given rights.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.