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Like Congress’s timid assertion of its powers last Friday, the War Powers Act is a gentle reminder to presidents that taking the nation to war requires taking a vote of the nation’s legislative body.
The War Powers Act dictates that the president must cease any military action unauthorized by Congress within sixty days of its commencement. Eighty days have passed since the president embroiled the U.S. in Libya—and the campaign goes on unabated. President Obama has whimsically behaved as though this rule does not apply to him. La Loi, C’est Moi.
The 1973 resolution decrees, “The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situation where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.” If that last part seems prescient in light of the “limited kinetic action” in Libya, keep in mind that it was written when it was fashionable to call wars “conflicts.”
The president didn’t consult Congress. He talked to France. He planned with NATO. He received the imprimatur of the United Nations Security Council. But the president left the branch of government constitutionally empowered to send the country to war out of the process entirely.
The War Powers Resolution is another law passed by a Democratic Congress to a restrain a Republican president that becomes null and void once a Democrat regains the White House. Like Barack Obama becoming warden of Guantanamo Bay or ordering the assassination of al Qaeda’s leader when he had decried the waterboarding of bin Laden’s underlings, the War Powers Act reversal is in keeping with a president whose current actions conflict with his past words.
The Gulf of Tonkin resolution may have fibbed and the authorization for the Iraq War may have jumbled some facts. But at least Presidents Johnson and Bush paid deference to the oaths they made to the Constitution. The war lie President Obama told came in the first moments of his presidency when he swore to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Daniel J. Flynn is the author of numerous books, including Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America, forthcoming from ISI Books this fall. He writes a Monday column for HumanEvents.com and blogs at www.flynnfiles.com.