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Special Report

Should NATO Take Over Military Operations in Libya?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 24, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

JIM ANGLE, ANCHOR: This is a Fox News alert. We're waiting for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to come out and talk about Libya, the future of the U.S. role there, and an agreement they're working on with NATO. That agreement was supposed to have been finished. The secretary was expected at 6:15, but there is apparently a last-minute snag. So, she has not yet emerged to tell us what the deal is.

In the meantime, we have our panel here. And Charles had his shot before we went to the break. Now, we go to Kirsten and Jonah. So, what do you make of all this, Kirsten? Where you think we are in this?

KIRSTEN POWERS, NEW YORK POST: Well, I think that it was interesting listening to Charles. He was being very critical of Obama for not wanting the U.S. to stay in the lead, and that's predicated on the idea that we should be there in the first place, which I would differ on that issue. Obama has set a deadline for himself, he said we were going to be there days, not weeks. We are at six days.

So, what they're doing tonight is that they just are coming in under the clock, basically, coming in and saying, "oh, we're handing it off to NATO." Now, the reality is, I think, we all know we're still going to be doing everything. Nobody else has the capabilities that the United States has. So, this is just -- this is a little bit of a game that they're playing, and I think that, you know, the other problem is, that as Charles said, we need more than a no-fly zone, frankly, in this situation if you think we should be there.

ANGLE: Now, Jonah, why is the veneer of NATO control important at all?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: I don't think it's important at all. I mean, it is an amazing thing. Barack Obama has managed to alienate everybody from peaceniks hippies to bomb before breakfast neocons. I mean, it is an astounding thing. I was in favor of intervention. I still think it was probably the right thing to do, although, I think Obama waited three weeks and really missed his real opportunity.

But this idea, this fiction, that somehow we're handing it off to NATO, an organization that we are the supreme commander of, and are in charge of. It's sort of like that scene at the end of "Spartacus" where they all say, "I'm Spartacus. No, I'm Spartacus," but everyone knows who's Spartacus is in this situation. It doesn't really matter. It's all an incredibly elaborate Potemkin village propaganda tool that no one is buying.

ANGLE: Now, let me go back to Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon. Jennifer, are you getting any more word about what is that is holding up this final agreement?

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Well, I think what is holding up Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coming out and speaking to us, because she was supposed to announce this at 6:15, is they are essentially trying to interpret what is essentially a non-agreement by NATO. NATO has parsed this in such a way that they have agreed to a no-fly zone, but as we've said, there are very few Libyan planes that even are capable of flying at this point. That was not the point.

So, what I think is holding things up and the reason that NATO is continuing its discussions about taking over the command for the entire operation is that certain members, the Turks being in the lead have -- are coming to this coalition with caveats. We knew that the Qataris, when they sent four warplanes, what we haven't ever heard is, are those warplanes going to be dropping bombs?

We know that the United Arab Emirates have had concerns. And from the beginning, they were only going to fly humanitarian missions, not drop bombs. We know there's a third Arab state that is considering sending warplanes, but their caveat is that they won't drop bombs. So, a lot of the coalition members who are outside NATO have a lot of caveats, and they're trying to work this all together.

And right now, I think, Hillary Clinton is trying to determine what she can actually say about this so-called partial agreement out of NATO tonight.

ANGLE: So, Charles Krauthammer, what do you think is going on behind those closed doors?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: They working on language that will disguise a failure. They have a thesaurus of language which will take care of that, and they're trying to find the right words. Look, this is not meaningless. We have a command in control of the operations, have had tremendous success on the ground. Obama is the one who decided he wanted in, and now, he wants out of command and control.

He makes a decision that America is going to be in, but if he relinquishes command and control, if America does, it's going to be on NATO, which always operates on the consensus, which means all 28 countries have to agree on the targeting. Can you hit a tank outside of a city if it's not shooting?

All of these details which are now in the hands of an American commander who can make a rational decision with a unified command are going to be in the hands of a committee of 28, including the Turks who don't want to be in this operation in the first place. That's why it's important and that's why it's absurd.

ANGLE: Now, Kirsten, does it matter if the Muslim nations drop bombs? Does it matter what their role is if they're part of the coalition?

POWERS: Well, it matters in terms of do we want the United States to be again taking the lead in another Muslim country. That's one thing. It matters also if you have the position that the United States is not the placement of the world. We do not need to getting involved in every single problem in the world. The White House has come out and said that they headed off a Srebrenica on steroids.

Now, I think that there's very little evidence to support that. If that was true, if, in fact, we saw hundreds of thousand -- a hundred thousand people being rounded up who are about to be massacred, we would be talking about a different situation, however, that is not what's happening here. The other thing is who are the rebels? You know, we have people talking about arming this people.

Every expert that I have spoken to or read has said they are incapable of overthrowing Qaddafi. So, what exactly are we doing there? What is the end game? I mean, these are the things Secretary Clinton should be talking about since the president isn't coming out and telling us. Really, what is the end game here?

ANGLE: Now, Jonah, I will get back to you in just a moment. First, I want to play something from Vice Admiral Bill Gortney who's the director of the joint staff who described the U.S. role and the role of the coalition this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE ADMIRAL WILLIAM GORTNEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: When and where regime forces threaten lives of their own citizens, they will be attacked. When and where regime forces fly combat aircraft or fire at coalition aircraft, they will be attacked. And when and where regime forces attempt to break the embargo, they will be stopped. Our message to the regime troop is simple. Stop fighting. Stop killing your own people. Stop obeying the orders of Colonel Qaddafi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: Now, threaten their citizens, they will be attacked. Steve Harrigan is on the ground in Tripoli. Steve, have you seen any evidence that what Vice Admiral Gortney is talking about has occurred on the ground?

STEVE HARRIGAN, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: No, Jim. We've heard several talks about possible cease- fires. Several of them announced by officials here in Tripoli, but they really haven't held. What we have going on, really, is a battle in urban warfare in a very complicated battlefield where Qaddafi forces are inside the cities. That's certainly going to make it very difficult in cities like Ajdabiya as well as Misurata to get them out of there, especially if you're just using air power.

The rebels have proven un-capable in a stand-up fight man-to-man to take on the better equipped, better trained Qaddafi forces, and to get them out from just the air is also going to be a challenge in the battlefield that's urban and heavily mixed with a civilian population.

ANGLE: OK. We're standing by waiting for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to come out and tell us about the agreement or the partial agreement with NATO over the future of the U.S. role in Libya and what is happening with that. We're going to take a quick break. You won't miss a moment of it if you stay right here.

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