Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obama, Libya, and the Inanity of Congressional Complaint

Politico Arena Topic: Did Obama Buck Congress on Libya?

These strikes were conducted in the exercise of our right of self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This necessary and appropriate action was a pre-emptive strike, directed against the Libyan terrorist infrastructure and designed to deter acts of terrorism by Libya….In accordance with my desire that Congress be informed on this matter, and consistent with the War Powers Resolution, I am providing this report on the employment of the United States Armed Forces. These self-defense measures were undertaken pursuant to my authority under the Constitution, including my authority as Commander in Chief of United States Armed Forces.” These words are not Barack Obama’s but Ronald Reagan’s almost fifteen years ago. They were communicated to Congress in a letter two days after the United States bombed Libya on April 14, 1986.

In the modern era and despite passage of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, presidents rarely “consult” Congress (thus bypassing Section 3 of the War Power Resolution); instead they “inform” Congress after military action commences or at least as it about to commence. All Presidents—Democrat and Republican—jealously guard that prerogative. If Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is correct (and I don’t think he is), every president since the Watergate Era could have been impeached based on their interpretation of presidential war powers. As a practical matter, however, it is business as usual—presidents command the troops as they see fit and Congress complains that they’ve been ignored.

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