Like many citizens, I just don’t know about that war in Libya.
It irks me that President Obama took the views of the Europeans into consideration in making the decision to begin hostilities but that he won’t go to the U.S. Congress for approval of the Libyan adventure. As is often the case, Charles Krauthammer gets to the heart of the matter:
Is the Libya war legal? Under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, it is not. President Obama has exceeded the 90-day period to receive retroactive authorization from Congress.
But things are not so simple. No president should accept – and no president from Nixon on has accepted – the constitutionality of the WPR, passed unilaterally by Congress over a presidential veto. On the other hand, every president should have the constitutional decency to get some congressional approval when he takes the country to war.
The model for such constitutional restraint is – yes, Senator Obama – George W. Bush. Not once but twice (Afghanistan and then Iraq) did Bush seek and receive congressional authorization, as his father did for the Gulf War. On Libya, Obama did nothing of the sort. He claimed exemption from the WPR on the grounds that America is not really engaged in “hostilities” in Libya.
To deploy an excuse so transparently ridiculous isn’t just a show of contempt for Congress and for the intelligence of the American people.
The larger problem is that nobody declares war any more. Countries fight wars that are never declared. The Congress should explore this problem and come up with some answer to the conundrum. But the president’s arrogance is still irritating.
His announcement of our withdrawal in Afghanistan is also troubling. Unlike in Libya, thousands of Americans have died in Afghanistan. I understand the nation’s weariness with that war, but I worry that our abrupt ending of that war (and telling the Taliban exactly what we are doing) will have serious repercussions. Military expert Robert Kagan notes:
The entire military leadership believes the president’s decision is a mistake, and especially the decision to withdraw the remainder of the surge forces by September 2012. They will soldier on and do their best, but as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, put it, in characteristic understatement, they believe the decision will increase the risk to the troops and increase the chancethat the mission will not succeed. It bears repeating that the deadline imposed by the president has nothing to do with military or strategic calculation. It has everything to do with an electoral calculation. President Obama wants those troops out two months before Americans go to the voting booth.
This was a shortsighted decision from every perspective. There is still time for the president to fix it. He just needs to say that the deadline is flexible and depends on circumstances on the ground. That would go some way toward repairing the damage he has done.
Do you ever get the scary feeling that foreign policy is like really, really foreign to the Obama administration?