The Congress shall have Power…. To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy; To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions… Article One, Section Eight of the US Constitution.
Earlier this week Speaker Boehner sent a letter to the President warning Obama that he will clearly will be in violation of the 1973 War Powers Act as of this weekend as the POTUS did not seek congressional consent for the operation within 60 days of the March 19 U.S. air strikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
“Either you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution,” Boehner wrote. “The House and the American people whom we represent deserve to know the determination you have made.”
Yesterday the President gave his response. He sent a 30+ page report (embedded below) justifying continued military involvement U.S. military involvement is “legitimated” by the UN Security Council – saying that therefore no congressional authorization is needed.
U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition, whose operations are both legitimated by and limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force solely to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under attack or threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo.
A major problem with that argument is that the Constitution’s provisions regarding the United States use of military force mentions Congress, but it doesn’t mention the United Nations as having the right to legitimize the use of American forces.
The President’s statement brings to mind George Washington’s farewell address where he said:
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification.
The administration also claims that its actions are not governed by the War Powers Act because the U.S. involvement does not constitute “hostilities” – the term used by the act to limit the time the president may commit U.S. forces into combat.
The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.
Maybe its me, whether the action is right or wrong,when one nation drops bombs on another that represents hostilities. It is also interesting that the President says further congressional authorization, as the operation has never been authorized by Congress.
Whether you agree with the rationale behind placing Americans in danger by participating in the Libya operation or not, the President’s explanation sets dangerous precedent that congress needs to address. Who is allowed to “legitimize” the use of American Military, Congress or the United Nations? The Constitution would say Congress. Additionally what is the definition of hostilities? Are bombing operations considered hostilities? Embargoes? Is it “anything goes” as long as there are no troops on the ground?
The answers to these questions are vital to the future direction of the Country, our use of military force, and most importantly are we a sovereign nation or a vassal state of the UN
The President’s entire response is below.
United States Activities in Libya 6-15-11