Andrew C. McCarthy says Go to Congress first before warring against Libya.
On Thursday evening, the U.N. Security Council voted 10–0 (with five abstentions, including China, Russia, and Germany) to authorize the use of military force (i.e., “all necessary measures”) against Libya. Ostensibly, the resolution is designed to protect the Libyan people. But not to mince words, it is a license for war against the regime of Moammar Qaddafi. It would kick hostilities off with a no-fly zone over Libya. As a practical matter, American armed forces must do the heavy lifting if the strategy is to have a prayer, and indications are that President Obama intends to oblige.
There is a catch: The Security Council is powerless to “authorize” the U.S. military to do a damned thing. The validity of American combat operations is a matter of American law, and that means Congress must authorize them.
Our Constitution vests Congress with the power to declare war. That authority cannot be delegated to an international tribunal that lacks political accountability to the American people. The decision to go to war is the most significant one a body politic can make. Thus the Framers designed our system to make certain that the responsible officials are answerable to the people whose lives are at stake and who are expected to foot the bills.
But there should be no debating that absent a hostile invasion of our country, a forcible attack against our interests, or a clear threat against us so imminent that Americans may be harmed unless prompt action is taken, the United States should not launch combat operations without congressional approval.
But James V. Capua in Obama and the Libya decision has a different take.
Barack Obama finally has a war he can believe in. The intervention in Libya promises to conform just about perfectly to the president’s world view. He hastened to declare in his Friday afternoon statement what it would not entail– no US troops on the ground, and somebody else will lead it.
Now at first glance it might appear he is merely being cautious – limiting our exposure to minimize any unfortunate foreign or domestic fallout should the television images get unpleasant, but one cannot help but suspect that the motive is less to minimize the US role than it is to exalt that of the UN and other supra-national organizations, such as the Arab League, and all of the NGO camp followers that normally feed off such international coalitions.
Additionally, this action promises finally to use American military power in the kind of international relief and social service agency capacity Obama’s internationalist foreign policy team would like it to be, its mission unsullied by grubby considerations of national interest. One observer has already compared it to the international intervention in Kosovo, intervention that delivered the Kosovars into the hands of UN and EU caretakers, despite their declaration of independence.
Even more significantly Obama’s world view requires victims to be serviced, and not winners to be supported. As long as the Libyan rebels had a chance to prevail, they were of little value to a messianic narcissist bent on removing the “Incomplete” from his Nobel Peace Prize citation. Pitiful, battered, pleading Libyans huddled around Benghazi are the prerequisite for making this this intervention work politically. In just the same way Obama and Pelosi needed the image of sick, desperate, hard up Americans to make the case for ObamaCare, the Stimuli, and financial services “reform.”
War without victory, intervention that produces dependency, Americans shouldering the burdens but obscured in a fog of UN acronyms, a maze of rules of engagement and process that squeezes every last bit of spirit and motivation out of warriors, it may not be a strategy, but it sure as hell explains the motivation.