Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Sunday deflected statements that the U.S. role in Libya would not end until leader Muammar el-Qaddafi is removed from office.
“It depends on the circumstances that exist at that particular time,” said Levin on CNN’s State of the Union. “There are other means of removing Qaddafi besides militarily.”
On Sunday, the media reported that rebels in Libya beat back Qaddafi's forces, retaking towns and moving westward. The Rebels took control of the oil town of Brega and moved toward Ras Lanuf, where a major oil refinery is located, the New York Times reported.
Levin also maintained the proper U.S. role is not removing Qaddafi, but assisting an international group of allies to stop his attacks on the Libyan people.
“We are not the ones to remove him. We are ones part of an international coalition preventing Qaddafi from massacring his own people,” said Levin.
But former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former National Security Agency Director Gen. Michael Hayden, both officials under the George W. Bush administration, said the removal of Qaddafi was the ultimate, if informal, U.S. goal.
“That was the informal contract,” said Hayden. “We’re in this until he goes away.”
Hayden and Hadley also emphasized that success in Libya could directly influence how America and its allies are viewed in other Middle Eastern countries protesting for democratic reform.
“If we fail in Libya, we will teach [Syrian president] Bashar Al-Assad and leaders in Tehran: if you kill enough of your own citizens, you stay,” Hayden said. “Maybe most important thing we can do in Syria is to succeed in Libya.”