Obama’s Bypass of Congress: A Necessary Act and Indicator of a Political Crisis in USA

I wrote recently of my decision to support the intervention in Libya, and the difficulty of that decision. I have rarely seen a question that has so divided people, and it’s happened on both the left and the right. I struggled with the question because there are good arguments both for and against the now-NATO-led military action there.

There’s one argument, though, that does not have much merit, though. That’s the issue of Obama’s not seeking Congressional authorization for this action. And the fact that it doesn’t have merit raises a whole set of new questions that all Americans, as well as the masses around the world affected by American foreign policy, need to consider most seriously.

Obama pointing the way to bypass obstructionist Republicans

Let’s start with the legal issue. Some members of Congress seem to either ignore or be ignorant of the US Constitution.  Congress has the exclusive power to declare war, a provision meant to check the power of the President as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. But there was no war declared here on Libya. In no way can this action be called unconstitutional.

Even Obama got this wrong when, in a 2007 interview while he was still a Senator running for the big job, he said: “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.” Though he does go on to say, correctly, that, “History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.” The problem, as I’ll address below, is that this Congress has made that option considerably less than preferable.

But is Obama’s action legal? After successive presidents got the US caught up in Asian quagmires in Korea and, most especially Vietnam (including, of course, the fabrication deceiving Congress about US forces being attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, though the US had already been involved in Vietnam by that time for years), the Congress, in 1973, enacted the War Powers Resolution. The purpose of this law was to ensure that the president could no longer drag the US into a prolonged conflict without congressional permission. Continue reading

Hopping Off the Fence: Why I Support Foreign Intervention in Libya

Sometimes, even an indecisive stance can be wrong. When it comes to the international intervention in Libya, until recent days, I was indecisive, and I was wrong.

A couple of days ago, I got off that fence, and actually came down on the side I had been leaning away from (as evidenced by a short quip in this article I recently wrote). Before I could post anything on that subject, Juan Cole posted an outstanding argument supporting the current international intervention. You should read it.

As always, my own thoughts are a little different, but I find nothing in Cole’s piece to disagree with.

Libyans demonstrating against Qaddafi and for a no-fly zone

My initial ambivalence was based on a number of factors. It was certainly clear enough to me that Qaddafi was preparing to seriously escalate his assault on the rebellious citizens in Libya, and there was every reason to believe that the casualty rate would be high and would include a good many uninvolved bystanders as well as the rebels.

But when the no-fly zone was first announced, it looked an awful lot like another American intervention without a clear exit strategy. I was concerned that the US was once again heading into a Muslim country without thinking through long-term considerations. Moreover, I was not only mistrustful of any international effort led by the US, UK and France, but was especially worried because it meant a Western military presence right next door to Tunisia and Egypt, and a greater concentration of Western forces in general near the sites of other potential revolutions.

I still have those concerns, and I think they’re healthy. Given the history of the three countries leading this effort, we should remain ever vigilant.

But in the end, none of this stacks up against what it was apparent Qaddafi was about to do. And there are more considerations here. Continue reading