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WALLACE: Joining us now are two leading members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. From his home state of South Carolina, Republican Lindsey Graham, and here in the studio, Democrat Jack Reed.
Senator Graham, let me start with you. What do you think of the military operation in Libya so far and the support role that the U.S. is going to be playing?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, I'm glad we are finally doing something. We -- I don't know how many people have died as we wait to do something. Thank God for strong women in the Obama administration.
I don't know what finally got the president to act, but I'm very worried that we're taking the backseat rather than a leadership role. The British and the French have been great. Prime Minister Cameron said this action is necessary, legal and right. President Obama is talking about limited action of days.
Qaddafi is not the legitimate leader of Libya. He is an international criminal. He should be investigated by Attorney General Holder for actions in Pan Am.
We should isolate this regime. We should order all troops back to their garrison. We should knock out his radio and TV ability to communicate with his own people. We shouldn't pay Qaddafi's forces any money when it comes to Libyan oil.
Isolate, strangle and replace this man -- that should be our goal.
WALLACE: So, I just want to make clear I understand -- are you saying that the problem is the definition of the mission or the fact that we're letting the French and the British take the lead?
GRAHAM: The definition of the mission, we used to relish leading the free world. Now, it's almost like leading the free leader is an inconvenience. I want to be a good partner. I want the Arab world, young Arabs and young Iranians, see us as a strong, effective partner for their hope and dreams of being free. And I think the president caveated this way too much, it's almost like it's a nuisance.
This is a great opportunity to replace a tyrannical dictator who is not a legitimate leader, who is an international crook. And we should seize the moment and talk about replacing him, not talking about how limited we will be.
WALLACE: Senator Reed, two aspects. First of all, the formulation of the coalition and the question of whether the U.S. should be taking a lead role or letting the British and French take the lead role. And then, also this question of the definition of the mission which we just heard the chairman of the joint chiefs say is simply to get him to stop killing civilians but is not regime change.
SEN. JACK REED, D-R.I.: Well, first, I think the president and his colleagues, Secretary Clinton, have done a superb job in building international support. Without the Arab League's endorsement, there -- I do not think there would have been a successful U.N. resolution and we would be frustrated now. And, in fact, we might have been pulled into this without the international support we need -- not just militarily but financially, particularly at this critical moment when we're struggling with a deficit.
So, I think the president's leadership created the conditions for an international coalition. We're shaping the battlefield right now. Initially, we have that capacity. But we'll be able to hand off very quickly to French, to Arab forces, like the Qataris and others. That I think will send a strong signal to the Arab world that this is not about American interests. It's about democracy in Libya.
WALLACE: But let's get to maybe the more important question which is the mission. Now, that we have taken on Qaddafi, now that we have -- I was going to say bloodied his nose, we have done a lot more than that -- can we allow him to stay in power? I mean, he can create an awful lot of trouble in the world, even in a very weakened state, as the king of Tripoli.
REED: Well, I think what we've done now is taken the first step. But because we have a U.N. resolution that provides for robust operations to protect the people of Libya, there is the possibility of, I think, expanding this operation, not with U.S. forces but, frankly, with other forces, like the French, the British, the Qataris. That I think will send a strong signal to Qaddafi that his days should be limited.
We have to consider -- not U.S. but internationally -- some type of stabilization force. That's the most significant step I think going forward. But the flexibility of the U.N. resolution gives the United Nations and the international community the ability to --
(CROSSTALK) WALLACE: Are you saying you want boots on the ground?
REED: Not United States forces. I think the president has rightly ruled that out.
But there are many forces that are capable of helping. But the situation I think is such at this juncture that we will protect the citizens of Libya and I think eventually what you're going see is the Qaddafi position becomes less and less tenable, then you have international mechanism, a special envoy to the U.N. who can move in and begin to start the negotiations.
Hopefully, they will eject Qaddafi from power, but also coordinates with the elements in opposition and try to develop a stable government.
WALLACE: We are running out of time and I want to talk about a couple of other things. But let me get to this, Senator Graham. Do you think you can negotiate Muammar Qaddafi out of power?
GRAHAM: No, I think he should be branded for what he is. I think our government should investigate the role he played in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. I think he's an international criminal.
We should isolate his regime, as Jack said. We should knock off his radio and TV stations. Any military units in Libya that come to his aid should be destroyed. We should not pay him or anybody on his side of the ledger any oil money.
And let me just put it simply: this is the best chance to get rid of Qaddafi in my life. If we don't get rid of him, we will pay a heavy price down the road. The Obama administration owns Libya with Qaddafi.
Get rid of this man. Don't be uncertain in your statements. Be bold. Be effective. Work with the international community. Replace this international outlaw sooner rather than later.
WALLACE: Let me take you to a couple of other quick issues -- and I'm going ask you both to be brief about it.
Senator Graham, President Obama went to the U.N. Security Council to get approval, authorization for this use of force. Should he go to Congress?
GRAHAM: I don't believe he needs to come to Congress. I'd gladly vote on what he did. I think it's inherent within the authority of the commander-in-chief to take such action. We have been overly cautious, unnervingly indecisive. This thing melted down.
I wish we would have acted sooner. I don't feel a need to bless this action before he took it. I'd be glad to vote on it afterwards.
One word of caution: the U.N. Security Council has not been used every time we've had force. If you are going to take the freedom agenda and turn it over to the Russians and the Chinese, that would be a huge mistake. I'm glad we have international support but I don't want the model to be that you have to go to the U.N. to deal with tyranny. Those Russians and China are going to be less than friendly to getting rid of dictators, because in many ways, there are countries run by dictators.
WALLACE: Senator Reed, should the president get authorization from Congress?
REED: The president should notify under War Powers Act, like all his predecessors who'd probably say it doesn't apply. But I think he will know the powers. That gives us the opportunity to review what he's done.
Like Lindsey, if there's a proposal coming before the Congress, then I would have no difficulty in supporting the actions to date.
WALLACE: Finally, we have a minute left. And we are taking this action ostensibly to prevent Qaddafi from brutally attacking -- repressing and killing his civilians, protesters in his country. Meanwhile, our allies in Yemen and in Bahrain, they have been doing the same to protesters in their country. In fact, 47 were killed by the government in Yemen on Friday.
Question -- each of you have 30 seconds.
Senator Graham, should we be intervening in those countries? They are all our allies. But should we be intervening?
GRAHAM: We should stop the -- we should push back against using live ammunition against people who are protesting. This whole deterioration in the Mideast is because of indecisive leadership. The people in Yemen and Bahrain do not believe there's a downside of shooting their own people because we let Qaddafi come back and get stronger not weaker.
So, if we deal with Qaddafi decisively, we'll have better leverage in Bahrain and Yemen, and the Iranians will think twice. But if we don't deal with him decisively, all hell is going to break loose in the Mideast because nobody is going to follow a weak America.
WALLACE: Senator Reed?
REED: Unlike Libya, we have constant communication with the leadership of both Yemen and Bahrain. Secretary Gates was in Bahrain, making it quite clear to the king there and our diplomats in Sana'a, Yemen, making it clear to President Saleh that they have to respect the rights of the people. They have to allow peaceful protests. They can't use violence to suppress the legitimate concerns of the people.
That's the message we have to send and we are sending it.
WALLACE: Senator Reed, Senator Graham -- we want to thank you both so much for coming in and weighing in on this fast-moving story. Thank you, senators.
REED: Thank you.
WALLACE: Up next: Japan battles a nuclear meltdown. What does it mean for the U.S.? Answers from the secretary of energy, when we come right back.
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