What were your feelings when the U.S. entered into the military action in Libya? Would you consider it “war,” and, if so, what does it mean that the decision was not approved by congress?
There has been much debate, and equal amounts of confusion, about what the U.S. military intervention in Libya means. But no matter what you decide to call our involvement or how you define it—military intervention endangers the lives of our brave men and women in uniform and that of civilians on the ground. And, sadly, too often the inevitable outcome is that innocent people are killed and injured.
With so much on the line, I believe President Barack Obama had a responsibility to consult Congress before committing our military service members to a mission absent of a definition of success. Since the initial start of U.S. operations in Libya, the President has provided more information, but has still come short of presenting the country with a clear understanding of our strategic goals, costs and long-term consequences of committing our military to another fight. Under this continued uncertainty, it is simply unfair to commit our nation and military personnel.
But as we urge President Obama to define the mission, we must also acknowledge the moral dilemma presented by Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal and merciless use of violence against his own people. His unjustifiable actions force us to evaluate our values as a people, and moral obligation as a nation, to prevent a humanitarian crisis and save thousands of lives.
In short, then, these questions offer no clear answers. But what is clear is that our nation’s long term foreign policy cannot be driven by threats of military action in every corner of the world. In order to achieve long-lasting peace and stability, we need to lead by example and look past the sword for solutions.
As lessons in Afghanistan and Iraq have taught us, military action alone is not a winning strategy for long-term security. Hearts and minds are not won over by tanks and bombs. But instead they are won by engaging local populations and targeting resources that uplift entire communities.
I hope that in the coming days, President Obama will not only present a clear exit strategy, but uses this new lesson as an opportunity to realign our nation’s foreign policy to truly achieve long-term peace and security.
You recently introduced the Marine Debris Act to the House. How would this legislation affect the Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act of 2006, and why is it needed?
Every year, approximately 14 billion pounds of trash make their way into our oceans. As a result, marine debris affects 267 different marine species that suffer from entanglements or ingestion of marine debris.
To makes matters worse, 65 to 80 percent of marine debris is plastic that takes up to 450 years to degrade. While it might take minutes, hours or days for trash to reach our oceans, the effects are felt for decades and are left for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I am certain this is not the world we want to leave to our future generations.
For that reason I introduced H.R.1171, the Reauthorization of the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act of 2006, which expired last year. This reauthorizing marine debris legislation will allow the NOAA Marine Debris Program to continue its vital efforts to address the impacts of marine debris on marine ecosystems, coastal economies, and navigation safety through programs focused on identification, prevention, removal, and monitoring of marine debris.
The reauthorization of the bill will amend its predecessor passed in 2006 to streamline the program and avoid any overlaps or conflicts with other federal agencies conducing marine debris activities.
In addition to environmental impacts, marine debris also causes significant economic losses to industries that depend on healthy oceans. Abandoned fishing gear accounts for $792 million in damages to boat propellers a year, and beach closures due to marine debris have resulted in losses to the tourism industry of up to $28 million annually.
Our nation’s coastlines and oceans are one of our country’s greatest natural resources, and I believe this marine debris legislation provides us with the tools we need to effectively protect our rich marine ecosystems and coastal economies.