La Loi, C’est Moi

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President Barack Obama foresaw a quick war in Libya. That was 12 weeks ago. Last week, NATO announced another 13 weeks of military operations.“The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya,” the president promised at the outset of military operations. “And we are not going to use force beyond a well-defined goal—specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya.” But with the mission’s “well-defined goal” of protecting civilians morphing into an endgame of regime change, the promise to withhold ground troops no longer seems so sacrosanct. On Saturday, NATO unleashed attack helicopters upon Muammar Qaddafi’s forces for the first time since the campaign’s launch on March 19. Russian deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov interpreted the introduction of rotary-wing aircraft into the NATO operation as “one step before the land operation.” He explained this weekend at a military conference in Singapore, “We consider that what is going on is either consciously or unconsciously sliding towards a land operation.”

The prolonged but restrained campaign presents both a public relations and constitutional challenge for the president.

The legal and publicity problems converged in Friday’s 268-145 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives rebuking the president for bypassing Congress in launching Operation Odyssey Dawn. “The President has failed to provide Congress with a compelling rationale based upon United States national security interests for current United States activities regarding Libya,” the John Boehner-sponsored resolution reads. It calls on the president not to deploy ground troops in Libya and demands a presidential explanation for the legal basis of waging a war without congressional authorization.

Candidate Obama spoke unambiguously about the necessity of the executive branch to gain congressional approval before attacking a foreign nation. In an oft-quoted interview, he told the Boston Globe in December 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” His secretary of state said essentially the same thing when she competed against her current boss for the presidency. But that was when a Republican occupied the Oval Office.

There isn’t even a pretense within the administration that Libya poses a threat to the United States. Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates has repeatedly said as much, conceding that the North African country is neither a threat nor “a vital national interest to the United States.” Instead, humanitarian concerns provide justification for the multination endeavor.

Defending Libyans from a murderous tyrant is a noble aim. So is defending the Constitution. The process outlined by the document that governs the U.S. government delegates the power to declare war not to a solitary man but to the representatives of the people and the states. Just as 535 commanders in chief is inimical to sense and the Constitution, so too is one man deciding war and peace. One can say the Founders were against unilateralism, too—albeit of a different sort.

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  • Anamah

    What is Obama looking for in Libya? Why he goes after Gaddafi in Libya, but not by instance to Syria?

    • PhillipGaley

      Because, Gaddafi has a hundred and fifty tons of privately held gold, . . . which is desired to be added to the common pool for setting up a new monetary system on a gold standard—the moral of the story being: "There's a reason for everything under the sun.", you just have to think, . . .

  • zsqpwxxeh

    If Obama doesn't respond immediately to Congress, impeach him. This is an actual violation of the law (and yes, it's a dubious law but it is the law and he is brazenly breaking it). Obviously he'll be acquitted in the Senate but he will have baggage that cannot be ignored up until his defeat in November next year.

  • tagalog

    When they're using helicopters ("rotary-winged aircraft"), forces on the ground won't be far behind. Remember Black Hawk Down. Even if we don't want troops on the ground, engaged in fixed battle, it will happen.

    Didn't Obama tell us in the first week, that it would be a matter of hours or days before we were no longer involved? Oh well, just chalk up another lie from The One.

    Have we had enough high crimes and misdemeanors or wil there have to be more?

  • Wesley69

    Congress had better assert itself in this manner before The Obama turns the mission into more nation-building with questionable results. In the past, you won a war, conquering the enemy, laying his lands desolate, taking his riches, then returning home. The US, after WWII introduced this new concept into Europe and Japan with a huge degree of success. Not so much in other areas of the world, however. Now, after a war, we nation-build, costing us additional lives and treasure. What have we gotten in Iraq and Afghanistan? Iraq is in danger of becoming a client state of Iran and The Obama is negotiating with the Tailban so the US can get out of Afghanistan. Now, Libya???

    The House, controlled by the Republicans, have the ultimate tool to bring The Obama's illegal war to a close: THEY CUT THE FUNDING TO THE WAR. Naturally, Republicans are afraid that Libya may fall before this, so they are hesitant to pull the trigger. They don't want to look like obstructionists, BUT THE OBAMA NEVER COMPLIED WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE WAR POWERS ACT TO START WITH. HE IS, THEREFORE, IN VIOLATION OF THE LAW. Only if the Republicans point this out to the American people can they hope to restrain The Obama, who is desperatley looking for a foreign policy victory to go along with his killing of Bin Laden.

    If Republicans want to really screw up the president, they should demand why The Obama will intervene in Libya, but not in Syria, whose dictator, Assad, is murdering his own people. This is politics. You use the tools at your disposal and are not afraid to use them. Republicans, its time to confront thiis President.

  • jemc50

    Congress needs to find it's backbone and take the President to task for ignoring them and the War Powers Act requirements.

  • BLJ

    Obama should be frog marched out of the WH. Send his worthless behind to Egypt so he can hang out with his MB friends. If President Bush had pulled this the Dems and MSM would be howling for his behind.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    It may be that the reason we are going to be fighting in every Middle East Nation is
    to wear us down and spread us out so that when the attack comes on Israel we
    will be in no position to do anything about it. Obama is a sinister character and
    is working against America and Israel, he can not be trusted any more than the
    Congres. All things considered our military are in as much danger from Obama
    and Congress as from the Islamist enemies of freedom………………..William

  • LindaRivera

    Obama acts as if he is part of a one world government rather than the president of a sovereign country. Our representatives and our highly cherished Constitution are regarded with contempt. A very dangerous time for our country.

    Al-Qaeda are part of the rebels fighting in Libya. Why is America fighting on the side of Al-Qaeda???

  • LindaRivera

    To WilliamJamesWard:

    America will not lift a finger to help our trustworthy and much beloved ally, Israel, when Israel is massively attacked by multiple Arab armies and Muslim terrorist organizations. For many years America has armed and given and continues to give advanced military training to the Palestinian Authority army. One of the US trained Muslim terrorists told journalist, Aaron Klein, that all of the American training is used against Israel. They are the American government's proxy army against the Jewish people. Our enemies are treated as best friends and allies. Our allies are treated as enemies.