Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Obama's War of Choice

So now Barack Obama has joined the presidential wars club.

By engaging militarily in Libya without even the veneer of congressional authorization, Ohio representative Dennis Kucinich suggested that the president's actions are "an impeachable offense." He's been derided by members of his own party, but Kucinich is right. If unconstitutionally sending the U.S. military to intervene in another nation's civil war is not an impeachable offense then nothing is.

While there have been no declarations of war since World War II, presidents have routinely circumvented the Constitution's clearly stated clause that only Congress can declare war by calling their decisions a "police action" or getting a watered-down resolution. There is some debate concerning whether the president may order military action in an immediate emergency and then call Congress once the emergency stage has passed. But what's happening in Libya in no way resembles an emergency that requires the president to act unilaterally and without constitutional authority. Instead, the former professor of constitutional law has allowed the UN Security Council resolution to serve as the supreme law of the land.

But the UN Security Council resolution only authorizes that there may be "all necessary measures" to "protect Libyan citizens." If the Authorization for Use of Military Force legislation of 2001 was a blank check for President Bush, then what is this? Just what does "all necessary measures" to "protect Libyan citizens" mean?

Now that Obama has plunged the United States into this civil war, what are our objectives in protecting Libyan citizens?

By intervening in the first place, Obama has assured that the only possible outcome of this conflict means Gaddafi is dethroned. By entering on the side of the rebels, Obama has staked his claim. To offer limited assistance and then pull away is to condemn the rebels to the mercy of Gaddafi.

Why intervene on the side of the rebels unless it is to see them to victory? And if we take them across the finish line, how then does the new government in a fragile, fractious country operate unless it is propped up? What of Gaddafi's fighters? As students of history should know, the losers in a civil war do not often lay down all their weapons and celebrate the peace when the war is declared "over."

So why intervene in the first place? Is it because the UN said it was okay? If so, Obama has done nothing less than cede American sovereignty.

What vital American national interests are involved in who rules a cobbled-together kingdom of the northern Sahara?

Consider this: Moammar Gaddafi seized power over 40 years ago. Why is it that only now he is such a menace to American national interests that he must be confronted? It's been over 22 years since Gaddafi's only successful aggression against the United States, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Although 190 Americans died that day there was no military action taken against the "Mad Dog of the Middle East." If no previous president from Reagan to George W. Bush felt the mass murder of American civilians was worth retaliating against Gaddafi, why does protecting the lives of Libyan citizens merit it now?

As the Arab League bails out it becomes increasingly clear that it will only be the United States policing this conflict. Great Britain and France may have led the initial charge to act but countries facing insolvency are not long for occupations.

To invoke General Petraeus in 2003, how does this end?

By involving the United States, Obama makes this his war, regardless of whether Hillary or Samantha Power bullied him into it. If he calls off the whole shebang, he will have made himself into a fool by first declaring "Gaddafi must go," doing nothing for two weeks before reluctantly inserting American firepower, and ultimately leaving Libya with Gaddafi still in power having outlasted the strongest military on the planet with his third-rate army.

So now President Obama has taken us to war. He has taken us to war in a country where no national interests are at stake and he did so without the slightest acknowledgement from Congress. His actions have left the door open for more naked acts of aggression in the future.

Now is as good a time as any for that neglected congress to grow a backbone, reclaim their constitutional authority to declare war and finally put a stop to these presidential wars.

It's time for Speaker Boehner to make a real stand and assert one of his chamber's remaining power: The power to impeach the president for high crimes and misdemeanors.


Morally Depraved Liberal said...

Be right up front with you Carl, I have no problem with bombing Gadaffi's military apparatus.

When you look at the big picture, Obama had no choice.

This is the one time our presence is welcome. To sit by while Gadaffi's forces massacred the rebels (freedom fighters?) would have made it more difficult, if not impossible to intervene when other governments such as Syria begin to massacre rebels in their countries.

There's plenty to be suspicious of. France and Spain's quick entry could be because their oil companies, Total and Repsol, have large interests in Libya.

But the fact is, circumstances and past actions have blackmailed Obama into a US intervention.

Carl Wicklander said...

With all due respect, I think that if Obama "had no choice," then it was only because he lost control of the situation on his end. It doesn't look to me like Obama considered the consequences.

Whether our presence is welcomed or not doesn't change the fact that we don't have vital national interests in Libya and it doesn't change any of the facts about how this involvement started.