International Coalition Crumbling Over Skies of Libya?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 23, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Less than one week into the military campaign against Qaddafi's regime, the so-called international coalition appears to be crumbling. Now according to ABC News, Norway and Italy are considering suspending their participation in the Libyan operations. And what is even more startling is Germany has announced it is pulling its forces from NATO over its opposition on the no-fly zone.

And here with the latest on this going crisis is former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for being with us.


HANNITY: What do you make of the split in NATO? And what I was asking Karl Rove moments ago, this so-called steering committee. Because the United States, the president announcing that, you know, we're not taking a leadership role. A steering committee deciding where troops might be used in a war? Help me out here.

BOLTON: Well, I don't think I can help you out. I think this is a classic example of the failure of the Obama administration to understand what its goals are or how to get there. You know, this all should have been worked out within NATO, well before military operations began. And I think it speaks to the haphazard way in which the president made his decision, the lack of a clear objective and the lack of agreement among our basic allies as to what we are supposed to achieve. So, I'm very worried that unless the display of military power we've seen so far pushes Qaddafi out of the country, that we could be in for a long, long slog here.

HANNITY: If we go back to December of 2007, then-candidate Obama was asked by the Boston Globe the following question, you know, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking the use of force, authorization from Congress?

Now his answer, Ambassador was very simple. He said, the president does not have the authority and the constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

So, what happened? Now we are going to respond militarily, haphazardly even, because of a humanitarian need? He says, we have a responsibility to respond. What do you make?

BOLTON: Well, you know, the constitution doesn't bar incompetence, which is what we have here. He was wrong on his constitutional analysis back then. Maybe he has grown in office a little bit. But the fact is, the objective we should be pursuing in Libya is ousting Qaddafi. There is a clear national interest there to protect against Qaddafi going back to his nuclear weapons program and again resorting to international terrorism. Even the humanitarian objective, the president has set out protecting Libyan civilians, depends on Qaddafi being removed. And yet, he's not willing to allow our military to accomplish the one legitimate objective we have.

HANNITY: The session seems to be, how quickly can I get out? How can I limit the U.S. involvement in all of this? The one thing -- if, you know, Ambassador, if we're going to use military force, it seems to me and his stated goal repeatedly is that we got to remove Qaddafi. Isn't the one thing that's missing from this equation is victory? Seems to me that -- and I think Brit Hume made a similar point, failure seems to be an option in this case.

BOLTON: Well, you know, the president's too smart and too sophisticated and too nuanced to believe in victory. He believes in something else.

Look, he and his people have been told for years that American leadership irritates the rest of the world. And therefore, he's trying to hide the reality of this operation, which we have led it from the beginning and we have delivered most of the military muscle. The result of his unwillingness to assert American leadership is exactly the disarray you now see in NATO and even among the potential Arab partners for the coalition.

So, I think this is proof positive that the whole line of analysis that says, American leadership somehow irritates the world, just needs to be discarded and sooner rather than later.

HANNITY: Isn't that the point? I think you have really hit the nail on the head here, is that he doesn't believe that America's role ought to be the leadership role. But maybe somehow, we don't have the moral authority to be leading. And, you know, how else do you explain him telegraphing that we're not going to send boots on the ground. That we really have no intention of enforcing our threat that Qaddafi is going to be removed.

BOLTON: Well, that was a big mistake, whatever our ultimate intention in terms of ground forces. But I do think there's a lingering problem here that could get worse. And that is, his willingness to allow Americans to be put under foreign command. Really, not since World War I, America's first entry under the European stage have we been under the ultimate command of foreigners. We've had interwoven commands in other battles. But he has very casually said, foreigners are going to command this in the next few days. I think that is something Congress ought to debate. I don't think there's a Constitutional issue here but I think there's a real issue of national security in putting our young men and women under foreign command.

HANNITY: Would you advise against it? In other words, I personally think --

BOLTON: Absolutely.

HANNITY: -- if he is going to do that, then we ought not have a role at all, am I right?

BOLTON: Well, I still think we need to get rid of Qaddafi. We cannot allow him to remain in power now. And I think, the easiest way to do that would be to reassert American leadership. We can do this.

HANNITY: Well, if he reasserts it, fine. But if we are going to have a steering committee -- political steering committee led by France, I don't think that quite cuts it.

BOLTON: No. That's a prescription for a long term involvement with no clear winner or loser. It allows a return to terrorism and nuclear weapons by Qaddafi.

HANNITY: Great point.

BOLTON: -- and the risk that the opposition will in fact be taken over by Al Qaeda.

HANNITY: All right. Thanks for being with us, Ambassador. We appreciate it.

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