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March 22, 2011

Yes, Obama Must Seek Congressional Authorization For The War In Libya

Of course he must.

Let's look at the weakness of those arguing he shouldn't have to. Ann Althouse rightly calls out the increasingly-useless liberal Dave Wiegel -- he's a long way from whatever "libertarian" beliefs he might have claimed to once have held -- for proposing a "despicable" theory of presidential war-making power.

It's simple: Most of Washington doesn't want him to [trouble them with an authorization for war]. To coin a phrase: If they want the president to do it, that means it's legal.

The Constitution does not specify that a secret ad hoc survey of Washington DC insiders as the necessary authorization for war. It demands that Congress -- the people's representatives -- cast a vote in favor of it.

Wiegel's evidence for this is that Lindsey Graham says it's not necessary to seek a resolution; but the Constitution does not say that one Senator shall speak for all on such matters, and even it did, I doubt Lindsey Graham would be elected to such a position.

The Constitution does not merely enumerate the powers of office; it also enumerates the duties of office. Certainly politicians, being politicians, would occasionally enjoy ignoring their Constitutional duties. That does not give them license to do so, however.

There is and always has been argued an inherent presidential war-making power in cases where the situation is moving too quickly for formal Congressional debate, and thus, any debate would in fact resolve the issue by default -- if national interests are at risk within hours, the President (it has long been argued) can act on his own authority, temporarily, to preserve the status quo ante so that meaningful debate over options can be had (in the sense that there will still be options remaining, rather than a fait accompli), and that the president, as commander in chief, can always act in the defense of America itself.

Obviously that last part is inapplicable here; America is not directly threatened by anything that happens in Libya. American interests are indirectly threatened, depending on hypothethical future contingencies, and that means that there may be a reason to act, but this sort of indirect, hypothetical threat is not enough to give the president license to act purely on his own authority.

As to the "we must not tarry" argument -- that is disproven wholly by Obama's perfect willingness to debate this for weeks at the United Nations. He was perfectly willing to allow the rebellion to crumble to the very brink of defeat in order to secure United Nations authorization; obviously, then, this was not a "we must not tarry" situation, because the President tarried quite a bit. In fact, he tarried so much that the situation may now in fact comprise an unrecoverable loss.

Two weeks ago I linked a Politico piece reporting a UN official stating that even though Qaddaffy's tanks and jet bombers were routing the rebels, they were going to debate each and every point and word of the UN resolution as usual.

Furthermore, of course, Obama himself was willing to wait until last Tuesday before making any decision. The fact that he decided to wait until the last minute to make a decision does not disoblige him from seeking authorization from Congress.

The UN debated this matter for two weeks; it was of course perfectly possible for the United States Congress to debate it concurrently over the same period of time.

What is preposterous here, and offensive, is the apparent belief by Obama that an international Tyrant's Club created in 1945 is the true, genuine war-authority authority while the Congress specifically named in the Constitution as the war-approving authority is... what? Nothing, apparently. The international tribunal called the United Nations has, somehow, without a Constitutional amendment, displaced the Congress as the lawful tribunal for approving the injection of United States armed forces into war.

When did that happen? When, as United States citizens, did we all agree that we should no longer have the democratic power to decide when we would and would not go to war, and would instead leave the matter up to foreign powers, many (most) of whom are allied against us in one fashion or another?

Obama believes this did happen. He doesn't think we agreed on it, of course, as he knows, surely, that no such vote every took place. But he thinks that those International Representatives are much more competent to decide the fates of Americans and so, consistent with his left-liberal worldview, such responsibilities and powers are taken away from the American public and reposed instead in "better" people, either a small self-declared American elite or a foreign elite, better able to make decisions on behalf of ignorant, uneducated Americans.

This is simply liberal royalism, the de facto creation of royal prerogatives and royal duties in which the appointed royal class -- trained to be better at thinking, supposedly -- decides all major controversies on behalf of the ignorant underclass and lets the underclass take votes on the less-important stuff, just so they can feel involved.

This won't do. This isn't America.

Contrasting Bush and Obama: One made a case for war to the American people, got Congressional authorization for that war, and also, just as a bonus, secured a fresh demand from the UN demanding a tyrant comply with previous UN resolutions.

The other has barely spoken on this issue, has not made a case for war to the public, did not secure a Congressional authorization, and relies solely upon a UN authorization as his legal pretext for making war.

Of course one was praised and the other despised.

There are prudential reasons to do what Bush did, too, of course-- and those matters of prudence are the reason the Constitution demands a formal democratic debate on such a critical matter.

Obama has not made a case for war. He has not announced our goals in Libya. Because of this, his highly changeable mind concocts new goals almost on a daily basis.

This is imprudent in the extreme. If you're going to war, you should at least have a sense of what you're attempting to win. For Obama, wayward in his sloppy, undisciplined thinking, displacing Qaddaffy is sometimes not a goal, sometimes a goal but not a military goal but instead only a diplomatic one, and, today, suddenly a goal.

Which is it? Depends on Obama's mood, I suppose. The United States armed forces are currently engaged in war with a goal that shifts according to the mood swings of a, ahem, post-masculine man.

It is possible to muddle through successfully -- to blunder through safely with the luck of the staggering drunk -- but this is hardly optimal, and I think our troops -- and our citizens too -- deserve an optimal situation when we go to war.



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posted by Ace at 02:25 PM

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