War Powers Act
For the last two weeks the media has gorged on a non-stop litany of stories concerning the single most important issue facing our nation. Would that be the “unexpected” reports of almost non-existent private sector job growth and an economy that, despite Obama’s reassurances, may be on the brink of a double-dip recession? No. Is it Obama’s violation of the War Powers Act with our continued “kinetic military action” in Libya? Nuh-uh. Maybe it’s Sixth Circuit’s review of the ObamaCare case (nope) or the Federal Reserve’s warning that the political body must act responsibly in order to stave off an economic collapse? Wrong again.
Based on the 24-hour saturation in the news cycle and the sheer number of stories written and aired, clearly the most important issue facing our nation is that a skinny New Yorker with an incredibly overinflated sense of his own worth had to finally admit, after days of vehement protests to the contrary, that it was indeed he who sent the lewd photographs of his genitalia, as well as sexually charged and explicit texts, to college-aged women. These women, who include a porn star, are young enough to be his daughters.
And so unravels the scandal of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), possibly the most obnoxious and arrogant member of Congress now that former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) was defeated in the last election. Weiner, considered a rising star in the Democrat Party and a likely candidate to be the next mayor of New York, instead is tearfully admitting to the nation his indiscretions which have been going on for several years, and with at least a half dozen women. Watching his fall from glory, a Brooklyn-born Icarus plummeting towards earth, the proverbial wax of his wings melted by his own flaming ego, it is hard not to feel just a little sorry for him…at least until you remember that these indiscretions occurred both before and after his marriage to his wife Huma, who is now pregnant.
President Barack Obama came a step closer to engaging in military action in Mali. The Associated Press reports this morning that the White House has notified Congress that 100 military personnel have been sent to Niger, which borders Mali to the east:
In a letter to Congress, Obama says the forces will focus on “intelligence sharing” with French troops fighting Islamist militants in neighboring Mali. He says the American forces have been deployed with weapons, quote, “for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security.”
The U.S. and Niger signed agreement last month spelling out legal protections and obligations of Americans who might operate from the African nation. But U.S. officials declined at the time to discuss specific plans for a military presence in Niger.
The French military has been battling Islamic militants in Mali, but they’re expected to begin a troop withdrawal in the next month, turning over operations to African military forces. This withdrawal comes despite new skirmishes with radicals.
Even though the presence of American troops in the region is small, we’re involved in yet another conflict with against a forces who don’t represent any real threat to us. Not to mention that it’s another undeclared war, as Ron Paul recently explained, with a good risk of escalating.
The situation in Mali is becoming increasingly tense. Our own Travis Thornton recently touched on what’s going on in the Saharan nation, noting that the problem there “comes as a consequence of NATO’s 2011 Libyan intervention, in which the United States involved itself without congressional approval.
The country’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore, has ruled out any discussions with Islamic militants, putting the prospect of a peaceful ending to the violence out of reach. And while French military forces have been able to handle the situation to this point, there is a chance that the United States may intervene.
Earlier this week, Ron Paul, who recently retired from Congress and twice ran for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, explained that the United States is involved in yet another military action without the consent of Congress:
President Obama last week began his second term by promising that “a decade of war is now ending.” As he spoke, the US military was rapidly working its way into another war, this time in the impoverished African country of Mali. As far as we know, the US is only providing transport and intelligence assistance to France, which initiated the intervention then immediately called Washington for back-up and funding. However, even if US involvement is limited and, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, US boots on the ground are not being considered “at this time,” this clearly is developing into another war. As usual, the mission is creeping.
During an interview with Breitbart.com last week, Ben Shapiro posed a question to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) about a hypothetical attack on Israel that has become a source of some controversy in the blogosphere, particularly among those of us who have been critical of the foreign policy direction of United States in recent years.
“Does the United States stand with Israel, in terms of giving military foreign aid?” asked Shapiro. Sen. Paul responded, “Well absolutely, we stand with Israel, but what I think we should do is announce to the world, and I think it is well-known, that any attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the United States.”
Sen. Paul was critical of the foreign policy views of President Barack Obama during the confirmation hearing of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who has been nominated to serve as the next Secretary of State. He was also critical of Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president in 2012, who advanced the idea that a president can unilaterally go to war without congressional approval.
Doug Stafford, Sen. Paul’s Chief of Staff, recently clarified the remarks in an e-mailed statement.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the next Secretary of State, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to discuss the administration’s foreign policy. While the confirmation hearing was mostly easy for Kerry, he did face a tough line of questioning from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
Paul, who has been a frequent critic of the prevailing foreign policy views of both parties, asked Kerry about his views regarding unilateral war, specifically regarding military action in Libya.
“I agree with candidate Barack Obama, who said in 2007 that the president doesn’t have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack,” explained Paul. “I’d like to know if you agree with candidate Barack Obama or President Barack Obama, who took us to war in Libya without congressional authority, unilaterally?”
Kerry responded, “Well, Senator Paul, one of the things this committee has spent a lot of time on is the War Powers Act, which I support, and I believe in congressional authority to go to war.” However, Kerry tried to give himself some latitude, explaining that “are occasions which I have supported which a President of the United States has to make a decision immediately and implement that decision, execute on it, immediately.” Kerry listed occasions where he has supported a president bypassing Congress, explaining that he though President Obama went with that tradition when he authorized military action in Libya.
Earlier this week, I noted that Mitt Romney had taken a view of presidential war powers that was even more troubling than that of President Barack Obama, who had taken part in a bombing campaign of Libya without congressional approval. Romney told Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation, that he didn’t need authorization from Congress to go to war with Iran.
For all the recent talk from our conservative friends about executive overreach by President Obama, Romney comments are perhaps even more startling given the potential consquences of unilaterally going to war with Iran, both from constitutional and foreign policy perspectives. And even though he has endorsed him, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) isn’t happy with Romney’s recent declaration:
I do not yet know if I will find a Romney presidency more acceptable on foreign policy. But I do know that I must oppose the most recent statements made by Mitt Romney in which he says he, as president, could take us to war unilaterally with Iran, without any approval from Congress. His exact words were:
I can assure you if I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.
This is a misreading of the role of the president and Congress in declaring war.
President Obama is coming dangerously close to the deadline for withdrawal of all US troops from the Libyan theater of operations in accordance with the War Powers Act. However, the White House denies that the War Powers Act applies since American troops aren’t exposed to significant risk because Libyan forces aren’t able to return fire in a “meaningful way”. However, does risk to American troops matter in regard to whether the president can engage in warfare?
The Constitution gives authority for waging war in all ways except on how to fight a war to Congress. The president is Commander in Chief and is ultimately responsible for how a war is fought because leadership by committee is fine for crafting laws, but suicide in combat. Under President Nixon, the War Powers Act was created as a mechanism for dealing with that president’s use of the military.
Even as recently as the Gulf War, warfare automatically meant troops would be in harms way. Today, that’s a very different case. In the case of Libya, the White House argues that the US role is primarily support and that American lives aren’t at risk. Maybe that makes a difference to some folks, but not so much to me. I’m not alone either. Jack Goldsmith, who worked for President Bush in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, told the New York Times:
“The administration’s theory implies that the president can wage war with drones and all manner of offshore missiles without having to bother with the War Powers Resolution’s time limits,” Mr. Goldsmith said.
It looks like we’re headed towards a showdown as the Obama Administration has sent a report to Congress explaining that the legislative body has no authority over military operations in Libya because they contend that we’re really not at war:
In a 38-page report sent to lawmakers describing and defending the NATO-led operation, the White House said the mission was prying loose Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power.
In contending that the limited American role did not oblige the administration to ask for authorization under the War Powers Resolution, the report asserted that “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.” Still, the White House acknowledged, the operation has cost the Pentagon $716 million in its first two months and will have cost $1.1 billion by September at the current scale of operations.
“We are acting lawfully,” said Harold H. Koh, the State Department legal adviser, who expanded on the administration’s reasoning in a joint interview with the White House counsel, Robert Bauer.
The two senior administration lawyers contended that American forces had not been in “hostilities” at least since early April, when NATO took over the responsibility for the no-fly zone and the United States shifted to primarily a supporting role — providing refueling and surveillance to allied warplanes, although remotely piloted drones operated by the United States periodically fire missiles, too.
Nearly three months after the United States joined NATO forces in bombing Libya and weeks after House Republicans effectively ceded any authority in dealing with the Obama Administration’s non-compliance with the War Powers Act, Speaker John Boehner is giving the president until Friday to justify our intervention…and he really means it this time:
House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday warned President Obama that his administration would be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless he seeks authorization from Congress for America’s military involvement in the NATO operations in Libya or the United States withdraws from those operations.
In a letter, Mr. Boehner requests that the president explain the legal grounds for failing to seek Congressional authorization in the 90 days since Mr. Obama informed Congress of the start of the mission in Libya; on Sunday, it will be 90 days since Congress was formally notified that the mission had begun.
“Since the mission began, the administration has provided tactical operational briefings to the House of Representatives, but the White House has systematically avoided requesting a formal authorization for its action,” the letter reads. Mr. Boehner further states, “I remain deeply concerned the Congress has not been provided answers from the executive branch to fundamental questions regarding the Libya mission necessary for us to fulfill our equally important constitutional responsibilities.”
We’re supposedly a nation of laws. For better or worse, every person is supposed to follow the law. To. The. Letter. However, it appears that President Obama has violated the law, and not just any law. No, he has fully violated the War Powers Act with his “kinetic military action” in Libya.
On Friday, CNN ran a story asking if Obama was about to break the law. Indeed, it certainly looked like it might. After all, the War Powers Act requires a president to get approval for Congress within 60 days after launching military actions against another country. The only other time in history when we can this close was in Kosovo. That time, President Clinton argued that Congress actually had authorized action when they authorized funding for the action. I see his point.
President Obama, on the other hand, has no such excuse. Libya isn’t being paid for by special funding that Congress approved just for the occasion.
Other Presidents? Most other Presidents may start it, but they get Congressional approval within that 60 days. President Bush did it with both Afghanistan and Iraq after all, and he was the power mad tyrant bent on ruling the world or something like that. Most other presidents will launch an operation, and they either end it within 60 days, or they get the approval.
Obviously the question will be asked if this is partisan. It’s not. One of the people asking the questions about Obama in Congress?
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, tells CNN he believes Obama is trying to “bring democracy to Libya while shredding the Constitution of the United States.”