Sen. John McCain, top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, kept up the pressure on the Administration Friday to establish a no-fly zone in Libya, an option President Obama said, a day earlier, was still on the table.
Following a closed door briefing with Pentagon officials, the Arizona senator told reporters, "Logic dictates that if the Secretary of State and the President of the United States says (Libyan leader Muammar) Qaddafi must go, one of the measures that would hasten his departure would be a no-fly zone, which would inhibit his ability to prevail militarily."
McCain, who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to the Middle East, said though the U.S. can provide humanitarian assistance and "some covert activity from providing satellite imagery" to rebel forces, he emphatically dismissed any direct involvement of American soldiers. "I do not subscribe or advocate ground troops - U.S ground troops - in Libya. Let me make that clear."
The senator, who had been critical of President Obama for, he said, not responding to the Libyan crisis more forcefully, praised his former presidential campaign rival for speaking out. "I think it's important that the President of the United States yesterday reiterated what the Secretary of State said, and that is that Qaddafi must go. If you want Qaddafi to go, then one of the steps among many would be to establish a no-fly zone to prevent him from massacring his own people from the air."
McCain said Libyan "air defense systems are certainly old, and it is not a major challenge, at least in my assessment, of being able to impose a no-fly zone."
Some U.S. officials have expressed concern for who might succeed the mercurial Libyan leader, and though McCain agreed, he called Qaddafi "one of the two or three worst, oppressive, cruel dictators on Earth," and said any concern about who might replace him is outweighed by the outcome. "It can't - I think it could be a lot better, and certainly it couldn't be worse."