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Libya and the Rule of Law

Speaker of the House John Boehner sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday warning him that he is about to violate the mandate for the commander-in-chief to end combat operations after thirty days of the expiration date of the War Powers Resolution, and requesting the White House's interpretation of that law as well as seeking the exact justifications and goals of American participation in the Libyan Civil War. Today, the White House arrogantly responded that it has the legal authority to continue combat operations without congressional consent, and requested that Congress stop questioning him about the use of martial power for fear of sending "mixed messages" about our support of the NATO-led mission. One official said that what we are engaged in is not a war, so it does not necessitate congressional consent under either the War Powers Clause in the Constitution or the War Powers Resolution.

This conflict has so far cost the United States $716 million and is expected to top a billion by September. We have taken sides in a full-scale civil war, have exceeded the United Nations No Fly Zone with targeted bombings of ground forces and installations, and are actively and openly seeking the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Armed "westerners" have been spotted on video tape in Libya, and requests for negotiation by Gaddafi have been met with blunt refusals to allow him to stay in any sort of power. This is a war, and we are helping fight it, regardless of what President Obama and his administration says to the contrary. The President of the United States is actively directing taxpayer dollars and American forces to kill soldiers of other nations with the intention of toppling the regime of that nation.

The war in Libya serves no purpose for our national security or interests, and even on humanitarian grounds the information is murky as we do not know who we are fighting for. The United Nations and other international nongovernmental organizations have uncovered evidence of war crimes being committed both by the regime and the opposition, including the use of child soldiers by both sides--one of the most despicable acts that men are capable of.

The President has gone far beyond the authority he is granted in entering the Libyan Civil War, and has grievously insulted both Congress and the U.S. Constitution in a way even worse than his domestic policies. The right to use force is the one key power that we surrender to the government, and its use must be carefully regulated-- particularly the use of lethal force. Any time that power becomes more unrestricted, it is dangerous. I do not wish Gaddafi well; I hope that he meets the same dark death worthy of tyrants and mass murderers. Sanctioning his regime would be okay. Perhaps, even, limited involvement such as the imposing of a no-fly-zone is fine-- with the permission of Congress. Without it, the President is an unrestricted wielder of force capable of picking and choosing without proper explanation to his people's representatives who will win and lose in foreign wars.

Congress has two choices, and it is forced to these two choices due to the improper irresponsibility of the Commander-in-Chief. Congress must either pass a resolution authorizing the enforcement of the UN Resolution (that is, ensuring no ground involvement) so that the rule of law is still intact, or vote to cut the funding for this ill-conceived foreign venture and make a point to the Executive Branch that there are limits to its martial power and use of lethal force, and that Congress is not to be pushed over or ignored in these non-trivial matters of great importance. Congress must do something, and it must do it soon. As the L.A. Times Editorial Board said, "Obama shouldn't have left it to Congress to ensure that this operation is grounded in the rule of law. Three months into the Libya campaign, he should have had enough confidence in his policy to submit it to the House and Senate. Instead, he has sought refuge in legal obfuscations." It is time for Congress to assert itself and rein in this misconduct; this is the area of power where the respect for the rule of law must be most preciously guarded.
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Discussions - 7 Comments

Europeans woke up one day in a panic over the likelihood of a flight of vast numbers of refugees fleeing Libya for the European shoreline, all in an effort to escape violent repression by the present regime. Such repression ultimately called forth the "no-fly zone," which rapidly escalated into the United States choosing sides in a no-win situation. But it all began because the Europeans were unable to secure their own shoreline and unable to exert naval control of Libyan waters.

The Europeans should have been told to handle it. It wasn't a big surprise that the French were most insistent on American Naval and Naval Air involvement.

They should cut a deal with Khaddafy. Washington is all keen on cutting one with Assad, with bringing Iran into what has been termed "the grand bargain" no matter how many Arabs are consigned over into an Iranian sphere of influence, a sphere they have absolutely no desire to enter.

Obama has gotten himself way out there on the plank on this one.

How could our foreign policy establishment have not seen this coming? They threw in their support for the rebels not when they were on the verge of success but when they were about crushed, when Khaddafy was about to reestablish full control over the whole country. And for what? A humanitarian crisis?

I can't help but recall Churchill's advice for the Foreign Office during the Spanish Civil War.

And the pressing issue present isn't one of legality, it's the shocking, strategic incoherence demonstrated yet again by this administration.

I am of the belief that had Obama followed the rules and gone to Congress, it would have forced him to put together a coherent explanation of why we are there and what our goals are with clear objectives.

You're assuming something not in evidence, that is that there actually exists a coherent explanation for our present Libyan policy..

No such explanation exists.

Which is why he did not go to Congress.

"How could our foreign policy establishment have not seen this coming? They threw in their support for the rebels not when they were on the verge of success but when they were about crushed, when Khaddafy was about to reestablish full control over the whole country."

Yes, and now even "winning", whatever that is, is a defeat. The nation of Libya is in such bad shape it will need strong leadership right away just to be able to function. If any of the nations participating in the "not war" were still in the colonizing mode, they might just take over and run the place until it was again ready for Independence, but no one is going to do that. So, they will install whom? Yes, maybe Khaddafy again. How awful for the poor Libyans.

I believe this man, this Chief Executive, is trying to trivialize the issue, to make Republican criticisms of anti-war efforts past and future to seem hypocritical. I do not believe he is trying to do much more (unless he is trying to appeal or cater to the desires of the Muslim world for reasons of his own. Personally, I presumed he would go live in Chicago or Hawaii after his tenure, so I'm not sure of his reasoning if he is more concerned with Muslim desires than American, though if he is so concerned then a reason I'm sure he has).

At any rate, he will not succeed in trivializing the issue. The ultimate direction of America must reside in the people, and the best expression of the will of that people on matters of national import, as imperfect as it ever is, is the national Congress. Blow off them, and in a sense you have blown off America--or, more accurately, the notion that there is a America that is not constituted in the opinions of a single man or homogeneous group. That while we do not have a pure democracy, indeed can not have one, that we instead come as close as one can to such an ideal in a representation called Congress. If there is such a thing as democracy in American government, then on the national scale its living, breathing spirit resides in the Congress. A body that is imperfect, flawed, all too human--but that is also the most democratic branch of the Federal government.

Mr. Obama must simply yield.

ROB is not assuming their is one [coherent explanation]; he's saying if President Obama had taken the time to put together a coherent explanation it would have either
A) allowed Congress to vote up or down to authorize what's actually going on (ie fighting a war little different from the initial invasion of Afghanistan)
B) made the Administration realize, as Anon suggests, that there isn't a coherent strategy and their options WRT the Libyan civil war were limited in their scope.

His point being that the Administration didn't deign to seek congressional approval for the current war. The sin isn't the stupidity of the military expedition (and Anon is correct there that it is a lose/lose in the worst way), but rather the arbitrary nature by which our nation was committed to it.

President Bush, monster that he was, at least had decency to get congressional authorization to conduct his "illegal"/"immoral" wars.

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