War Powers & Libya

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Shared some thoughts with Rachel Maddow last night on the tug-of-war between Congress and the Executive Branch on deploying force abroad.
Also dispelled the notion that Obama’s views on Libya were hijacked by the women on his team.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

47 comments on “War Powers & Libya

  1. Super Probiotic says:

    There probably is some genuine concern for the civilians being murdered, but another incentive for military action is oil and the world economy. Although most of the oil used by America comes from Canada and Mexico, Libya supplies oil to Europe and is a big enough oil producer to affect prices worldwide. China may hold a huge amount of U.S. debt, but Europe combined holds even more. They have influence on the U.S. Government.

    Reply

  2. Paul Norheim says:

    Interesting article, John. Sounds like a plot from a Graham
    Greene novel.

    Reply

  3. JohnH says:

    The uprising in Libya may not have been exactly spontaneous. This report claims that French intelligence planned it with the blessing of Italian intelligence. It was to have been a Franco-Britannic undertaking, but the US wanted in as part of its counter-revolution and as a way to insert Africom into Africa.
    http://www.voltairenet.org/article169058.html

    Reply

  4. Paul Norheim says:

    “(CNN) — Escalating violence between Syrian security forces and anti-government protesters claimed 15 people
    Wednesday in the city of Daraa, witnesses and rights activists said. Syrian state television reported the government
    fired the governor of Daraa province, a flash point of anti-government protests.
    (…)
    Army tanks are positioned in the city, including near al Omari mosque, the opposition spokesman said. Mobile and
    regular telephone service from Daraa has been cut off, witnesses told CNN.
    Wissam Tarif, executive director of the human rights group Insan, told CNN from outside Damascus that Syrian
    security forces fired live ammunition at unarmed protesters.
    He said he was aware of three protesters killed in the clashes, but added there was no information on the injured
    because people don’t go to the hospitals anymore. This is because some disappeared after being taken for
    treatment earlier in the unrest, he said.
    According to Tarif, demonstrators want an end to the decades-old state of emergency in Syria, the release of
    prisoners of conscience and more freedoms.”
    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/03/23/syria.protests/

    Reply

  5. Carroll says:

    http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFLDE72M2NJ20110323?sp=true
    Libyan rebels name exiled academic as finance chief
    Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:41pm GMT
    By Angus MacSwan
    BENGHAZI, Libya, March 23 (Reuters) – Libya’s rebel national council on Wednesday named a U.S.-based academic and exile opposition figure, Ali Tarhouni, as the senior finance official in a transitional government it is setting up.
    He will head the financial and commercial committee, in effect acting as finance minister in a body which the rebels hope will win international recognition in their struggle against Muammar Gaddafi’s 41 year-rule.
    Tarhouni, aged 60, left Libya for the United States in 1973 after being jailed by Gaddafi for student political activities. He was stripped of his Libyan citizenship and sentenced to death in absentia in 1978, he said.
    He holds a PhD in economics and finance from Michigan State university and has been teaching at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle.
    “I left my students to come back. Everybody understand why,” he told reporters at a hotel on Wednesday night.
    He arrived back in the rebel capital Benghazi, his hometown, a few days after Gaddafi officials and security forces were thrown out last month. “I couldn’t wait to get back.
    He said he was initially reluctant to take up a formal role, then agreed to act as an economic adviser.
    Now he joins a cabinet in the process of being formed by Mahmoud Jebril who has been chosen to lead the transitional government.
    Tarhouni said he would be in charge of finance and the economy but only oversee oil, the source of Libya’s wealth, from a distance.
    “Oil is not an immediate issue,” he said. “Right now we don’t have a crisis here for cash. We have some liquidity that allows us to do basic things.”
    Foreign governments had said they would offer credit backed by frozen Libyan sovereign funds, he said. Much of the money was also literally “cash in the vault”, he said.
    The Central Bank in Benghazi and other banks had funds, he said. Also the British government had promised the rebel administration it could have access to 1.4 billion dinars printed in Britain originally for the Gaddafi government.
    BARE NECESSITIES
    “We need a strategic reserve for when cities are liberated. There’ll be a lot of needs for basic necessities.”
    He did not yet have a projected operating budget for the administration.
    On the issue of oil contracts between foreign entities and the Gaddafi government, Tarhouni said it would respect any contract that was signed before the uprising.
    “The overall goal is to get rid of Gaddafi then build a democratic country. We need to put our house in order first.”
    Asked what would happen if a military stalemate developed and Gaddafi remained entrenched in Tripoli, he said he thought the strongman’s position was ultimately untenable. He would be isolated with no oil, no cash, and no international recognition.
    The anti-Gaddafi movement did not want a partitioned country, he said.
    The dynamic would change if rebel forces could capture the town of Ajdabiyah, 150 km (90 miles) south of Benghazi, and the frontline of the war in the east. Ideally people in the capital Tripoli would rise up. The two largest tribes in the west also had still not played their hand, he added.
    The foreign airstrikes that have knocked out Gaddafi’s air defences and stopped his tanks were very welcome, he said, but no one wanted foreign ground troops to intervene. But the rebels needed more guns.
    “We welcome any help with armaments. We are actively looking for and seeking armaments.” (Reporting by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Jon Hemming)

    Reply

  6. Carroll says:

    http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFLDE72M2NJ20110323?sp=true
    Libyan rebels name exiled academic as finance chief
    Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:41pm GMT
    By Angus MacSwan
    BENGHAZI, Libya, March 23 (Reuters) – Libya’s rebel national council on Wednesday named a U.S.-based academic and exile opposition figure, Ali Tarhouni, as the senior finance official in a transitional government it is setting up.
    He will head the financial and commercial committee, in effect acting as finance minister in a body which the rebels hope will win international recognition in their struggle against Muammar Gaddafi’s 41 year-rule.
    Tarhouni, aged 60, left Libya for the United States in 1973 after being jailed by Gaddafi for student political activities. He was stripped of his Libyan citizenship and sentenced to death in absentia in 1978, he said.
    He holds a PhD in economics and finance from Michigan State university and has been teaching at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle.
    “I left my students to come back. Everybody understand why,” he told reporters at a hotel on Wednesday night.
    He arrived back in the rebel capital Benghazi, his hometown, a few days after Gaddafi officials and security forces were thrown out last month. “I couldn’t wait to get back.
    He said he was initially reluctant to take up a formal role, then agreed to act as an economic adviser.
    Now he joins a cabinet in the process of being formed by Mahmoud Jebril who has been chosen to lead the transitional government.
    Tarhouni said he would be in charge of finance and the economy but only oversee oil, the source of Libya’s wealth, from a distance.
    “Oil is not an immediate issue,” he said. “Right now we don’t have a crisis here for cash. We have some liquidity that allows us to do basic things.”
    Foreign governments had said they would offer credit backed by frozen Libyan sovereign funds, he said. Much of the money was also literally “cash in the vault”, he said.
    The Central Bank in Benghazi and other banks had funds, he said. Also the British government had promised the rebel administration it could have access to 1.4 billion dinars printed in Britain originally for the Gaddafi government.
    BARE NECESSITIES
    “We need a strategic reserve for when cities are liberated. There’ll be a lot of needs for basic necessities.”
    He did not yet have a projected operating budget for the administration.
    On the issue of oil contracts between foreign entities and the Gaddafi government, Tarhouni said it would respect any contract that was signed before the uprising.
    “The overall goal is to get rid of Gaddafi then build a democratic country. We need to put our house in order first.”
    Asked what would happen if a military stalemate developed and Gaddafi remained entrenched in Tripoli, he said he thought the strongman’s position was ultimately untenable. He would be isolated with no oil, no cash, and no international recognition.
    The anti-Gaddafi movement did not want a partitioned country, he said.
    The dynamic would change if rebel forces could capture the town of Ajdabiyah, 150 km (90 miles) south of Benghazi, and the frontline of the war in the east. Ideally people in the capital Tripoli would rise up. The two largest tribes in the west also had still not played their hand, he added.
    The foreign airstrikes that have knocked out Gaddafi’s air defences and stopped his tanks were very welcome, he said, but no one wanted foreign ground troops to intervene. But the rebels needed more guns.
    “We welcome any help with armaments. We are actively looking for and seeking armaments.” (Reporting by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Jon Hemming)

    Reply

  7. JohnH says:

    Sullivan said, “And yes, [US hypocrisy] lingers because oil matters still.”
    The problem is that US “engagement” with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran have not increased oil supply. Iraq is still producing less than Saddam did. The Afghan pipeline is still a mirage on the horizon. And Iran oil production is still two-thirds of what it was under the Shah, largely a by-product of US hostility.
    You would think that the geniuses in Obama’s entourage might get the message that US intervention harms US interests. Strategic restraint proves not only humane (preventing massive war casualties) but also turns out to be good for US economic interests.
    But instead, the US maintains its totally counterproductive hypocrisy–standing for “human rights” while presiding over the slaughter of hundreds of thousands and disrupting the industrialized world’s oil supply.
    Why should Libya be any different? Securing Libya’s oil supply? Dream on!!!
    It seems that the drive for macho action (and war profits) has totally overwhelmed Obama’s supposedly brilliant mind.

    Reply

  8. Paul norheim says:

    Andrew Sullivan on the Daily Dish:
    I see no alternative to pragmatism in these times. The core
    truth is: the US is navigating the currents of Middle Eastern
    history in a way that cannot be reduced to a doctrine.
    Interests and values conflict constantly; every rebellion has its
    own dynamic; reacting to an authoritarian regime and to a
    totalitarian regime must be different. The core hypocrisy of the
    US over the last few decades cannot be simply wished away.
    And yes, it lingers because oil matters still. Because we have
    refused to make the tough decisions to make us and the
    world less reliant on it as an energy source. You go to war
    with the economy and legacy you have.
    That means that almost any action by this administration in
    this region can be criticized for impurity or inconsistency, or
    for violating a doctrine, or for representing (God forbid!) a
    nuanced direction. My own worries about Libya are based on
    the Libyan case alone. But I could be wrong and I’m going to
    take stock of this as time goes by. Assessing pragmatism’s
    effects requires a series of non-ideological judgments.”

    Reply

  9. Don Bacon says:

    kudos to all — this is some good blogging.

    Reply

  10. DakotabornKansan says:

    David Alexander in Reuters:

    Reply

  11. Tank Man says:

    Kotz,
    Debated responding directly because you appear to have all the world

    Reply

  12. Kotzabasis says:

    Drew
    I can assure you that I have no love for the politically inexperienced Samantha and least of all any love for the effete, duplicitous, opportunistic, and strategically dilettante Obama. To me what is of importance is not under what misconceived concept Obama committed the U.S. military, but what this deployment of silicon valley technology and military power of the U.S. could do toward the democratic transformation of Libya with the ousting of Gaddafi. If such transformation would occur, the kudos would go not to Obama but to the professionals in the battlefield who dealt this masterful stroke to the tyrant. The corollary of such a success would be the augmentation by leaps and bounds of the prestige and prowess of the United States, and would have infinite favourable repercussions in its fight against Islamist extremism.

    Reply

  13. rc says:

    DakotabornKansan, Mar 22 2011, 8:12PM
    Great benchmark for reviewing ‘progress’.
    When should the US Constitution be updated to match modern-day reality?

    Reply

  14. Paul Norheim says:

    “With adroit statecraft and economic help (A little Marshall Plan injected into the Arab Spring)
    Western powers could tip the balance toward democracy and freedom and away from ethnic,
    sectarian, tribal, and I would add, Islamist interests. This is the challenge for wise, imaginative, and
    resolute statesmanship.”
    I fully agree with that statement, Kotz. In the long run, it could possibly work.

    Reply

  15. DakotabornKansan says:

    Humanitarians R Us
    Jonathan Stock in Der Spiegel reports:

    Reply

  16. Paul Norheim says:

    Correction: the heroism of the pre-poodle era.

    Reply

  17. Paul Norheim says:

    I think i’s still too early to tell, Drew. I think the Brits would very much like to take
    Gaddhafi out if Tripoli versus Benghazi ends in an inconclusive stalemate. And that’s why
    the resolution (“all necessary measures”) was so vague and allows for anything short of an
    occupation.
    While the Americans are haunted by Iraq, I suspect that the Brits are dreaming of a
    repetition of Sierra Leone – of the heroism of the pre-poodle. The former involuntarily
    created a civil war, the latter ended one:
    “The situation in [Sierra leone] deteriorated to such an extent that British troops were
    deployed in Operation Palliser, originally simply to evacuate foreign nationals. However,
    the British exceeded their original mandate, and took full military action to finally defeat
    the rebels and restore order. The British were the catalyst for the ceasefire that ended the
    civil war. Elements of the British Army, together with administrators and politicians, remain
    in Sierra Leone to this day, helping train the armed forces, improve the infrastructure of
    the country and administer financial and material aid. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of
    Britain at the time of the British intervention, is regarded as a hero by the people of Sierra
    Leone, many of whom are keen for more British involvement.” (Wikipedia)
    I assume the French have something to prove too. We’ll see how it ends.

    Reply

  18. Kotzabasis says:

    Paul
    Certainly it might be true that

    Reply

  19. drew says:

    Paul, a good friend of mine is president of one of the very largest
    defense contractors, and is a retired one star from one of the
    services. Forgive me for not being more specific because I’m not
    speaking for him. He says the incredulity at American
    impetuousness in Libya — on top of the last two years of such
    comments as “I’m with you” and the indeterminacy of current US
    foreign policy — being expressed by nation-clients across the
    middle east is much, much greater than anything that has been
    reported.
    I have no idea what “I’m with you” today means. Do you? When
    they were in the streets two years ago, in Iran, we weren’t “with
    them”, we were with the Ahmadinejad government.
    Because weakness by a superpower is always provocative, and we
    are demonstrating Brobdingnagian impotence now in Libya,
    there is the possibility that the region will just explode in flames.
    We can’t possibly police such a conflagration, even if it is caused
    by a regional democratic impulse.
    So will it? Probably not. Why not? Because every autocrat in the
    region is now going to mercilessly clamp down on any voice for
    openness.

    Reply

  20. Paul Norheim says:

    Gates is supposed to leave this summer, right? I guess he’s old school, and will stay until then. He’s
    made his position clear very early in the discussions about Libya and the NFZ. However, “stuff”
    somehow tends to happen in the Middle East, and if both the neocons and the liberal interventionists
    are pushing for new adventures, Gates may have to watch his soldiers fighting in the hills of Syria or
    the mountains of Iran on the day he’s supposed to quit (in addition to the Libyan desert, Afghanistan,
    Iraq…).
    Did you notice Obama’s “I’m with you” web speech to the youngsters in Iran on Sunday?
    Watch events in Syria and Iran closely in the coming months.
    We live in interesting times.

    Reply

  21. drew says:

    Paul, it will interesting to see if Gates quits even earlier than he
    plans, as a result of his inability to influence this decision to go to
    war with no strategy, structure, or operational plan. I think he is
    too much the organization man, and too devoted to the armed
    forces and country, to tender what would be a political resignation.
    It will be interesting to see if Petraeus is passed over for
    chairman/joint chiefs, because he too (famously recorded in his
    exchange with Gates) ridiculed the notion of bombing Libya. This
    president has very thin skin.

    Reply

  22. drew says:

    Kotz, the only way this confusing and confused war in Libya
    makes any intellectual sense is in its assertion of a new
    Responsibility to Protect (civilians). The person who invented
    that concept as a new obligation under international law is
    Samantha Power. Obama read her book and hired her as his
    senior foreign policy adviser in 2005.
    You may call me obsessed, but I didn’t even know who she was
    until she called Mrs. Clinton a “monster”, in 2008, because I
    don’t bother with 34 year-old Irish assistant professors in the
    USA on a visa who write on how American foreign policy and
    military hard power should be deployed in the service of a
    concept she thought up in order to get tenure. And who
    happens to be married now to a certain other highly educated
    ideologue who is an ideological source for much of this
    administration’s domestic policy, Cass Sunstein. (She is making
    war policy on our NSC while retaining an Irish passport.)
    The only way to intellectually justify placing American
    servicemen under foreign command — currently, we’re talking
    about a “political steering committee”, because there is no such
    thing as a multinational military authority, and I’m not making
    this up, is to assert that American hard power must serve a
    higher, international goal that is her own Responsibility to
    Protect.
    The only way to explain the immediate disposal of the stated air
    supremacy mission of this war (because we immediately figured
    out that you can’t “protect the people” by wiping out a tin horn
    airforce flying 1960s technology MiGs, which took about 5
    minutes, and began targeting the ground forces), is an overriding
    global responsibility to make Libya safe for western faculty to
    study. Yes, we have concluded that we need to blow up the
    village in order to protect it. Bono will do a charity music video
    and Powers’ “Inside the White House” memoir is being shopped
    already.
    Obama’s only, and it remains ephemeral, explanation for his
    about-face on the matter of running the air war against Libya,
    was his comment that he had a responsibility to protect the
    citizens of Benghazi.
    ***
    So, for how many years or decades shall we protect people (and
    no one can tell us who it actually is that we are protecting) in
    Libya, and from whom? Shall we do it with F-15s while the
    Germans and Spaniards refuse to comply with our definitions of
    protection? Shall we place the Marines and Navy and Air Force
    under foreign command for the first time? Are we going to
    invade Italy because they don’t want to sponsor our forward base
    requirements? Given that there was no entrance strategy, should
    anyone be concerned that there is no exit strategy? Does it
    matter that over 90 countries signed up to support Iraq and
    Afghan coalitions, but here we have two dozen nations who are
    already arguing about who’s in charge? Can anyone send me the
    powerpoint slide that details the operational chain of command
    that shows how “we are not leading” (Clinton, last week.) How
    can France be in charge when it is not in Nato? How can Nato
    be in charge if Turkey refuses to participate in bombing Libya?
    Do we need a UN Military Directorate? If we create a UN Military
    Directorate, will it have North Korea and Iran and Cuba as
    members, because after all, the UN has a Human Rights
    Commission and Cuba and Libya have been on it? Egypt has a
    modern air force (we built it) and a 500,000-man land force (we
    don’t), and they’re next door; don’t they have a Responsibility to
    Protect?
    This is what happens when you elect a guy as president who has
    never had a job or managed people, but he reads a lot, and it’s
    all not so very complicated. Especially if you hire people from
    exactly one academic/demographic cohort, who are so much
    smarter than the rest of the population, who can’t be trusted to
    authorize the higher purpose of subordinating international
    forays by the only world superpower. And include college faculty
    ingenues who have just as much insight into the use of military
    force as Gates or Webb, because she wrote a book that got made
    into a movie!, while chairmen of the joint chiefs ignore the most
    basic insights offered by the Bay of Pigs, killing Diem, walking
    away from SVN, the collapse of Iran, the failure of the Dutch in
    their “responsibility to protect” Sarajevo, five years of internecine
    bloodbaths in the political vacuum that became Iraq, and
    spending $100B a year to sustain Karzai, who hates us. This
    isn’t amateur hour, this is a farce called the Revenge of the
    Academics, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, music by
    Bono, executive producer George Clooney. If more Americans
    die or go broke supporting this war, well, tough luck, they
    should have gone to a better college.
    ****
    A strict constitutionalist, as Don and the tanker and the jayhawk
    (and I) are, is correct in calling this war illegal. But we haven’t
    declared war in Congress since 1942 (that one turned out badly
    for Rumania and Bulgaria, alas), so no one is going to get
    impeached. Perhaps, however, Congress would like to revisit
    their institutional impotence, which I believe is a convenient way
    for them to avoid going on the record (as they did extensively in
    support of all three of the Bush 41 and 43 wars, and as they did
    in passing laws in 91 and 99 making regime change in Iraq the
    official policy of the USA). As we know, going on the record in
    support of Bush cost the Dems the presidency in 2004, so they
    are going to be slow now to take any responsibility.
    Unless the CIA stuns me and has someone close enough to
    Gadaffi to get him geo-located long enough to laze a 500
    pounder on his head — which would violate Obama’s stated
    mission of protecting the people, not implementing regime
    change — Gadaffi has won this thing, and USA is wearing a very
    expensive hat that says, Paper Tiger. We got some pretty good
    live fire training in, I guess, but tell me how this ends, otherwise.
    Maybe when the president’s vacation ends someone will tell us?
    When the Arab League says, Just kidding, y’all can go home now,
    dirty infidel crusaders?
    I think it ends when Berlusconi, who is making rumbling sounds
    that we shouldn’t be using bases on his land, brokers some
    weird crooked deal with Gadaffi (as he has in the past). And
    Gadaffi goes about his tribal vengeance in the dark while our
    president returns to pressing matters: is Old Dominion this
    year’s sleeper Cinderalla team?
    I regret my sarcasm but this misadventure is a dangerous
    absurdity in the service of a few very large, very inexperienced,
    very dangerous egos.

    Reply

  23. Paul Norheim says:

    Kotz,
    it’s true that I several times during the last month have pointed out that the tribal components and the historical
    rivalry between the Eastern and Western provinces seem to be the primal driving forces behind the revolt in Libya;
    and that the strong commitment to non-violent ideology seen among young protesters demanding democracy in
    Tunisia and Egypt has been largely absent in the Libyan revolt.
    Now more and more important voices seem to share that view. The latest of your opponents on this issue is
    someone I assume you wouldn’t accuse of lacking “moral strength” – US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Here is
    an excerpt from his statements to David Ignatius from the Washington Post in an interview in Moscow:
    “Gates says the unrest has highlighted

    Reply

  24. Paul Norheim says:

    This is important…
    If the analysts at the Financial Times are right (and they seem credible; notice also the quoted Al Arabiya
    headline in the article) , Saleh and his government in Yemen will be abandoned by the Saudis. Excerpts:
    Saudis prepare to abandon Yemen
    By Abeer Allam in Riyadh and Roula Khalaf in London
    Published: March 22 2011 20:39
    Yemen

    Reply

  25. Kotzabasis says:

    Don Bacon
    Distortion and lack of imagination are not a good way to make your case.
    On your first point, where in the world has there been even a blip of demonstrable opposition to the Coalition

    Reply

  26. Don Bacon says:

    Actually, kotz
    * the coalition has most of the world against it,
    * the “defeat of the dictator” is not a goal of the coalition,
    * the neglect of the US Constitution is not a “quibble” except maybe in Oz,
    * there is no evidence of Gaddafi fleeing,
    and so on.
    Other than that it was nice to hear from kangaroo-land, a marvelous place full of people like Kevin Rudd who has bravely said that “Libya won’t be a cakewalk.”
    Kevin lives!

    Reply

  27. kotzabasis says:

    While the most important issue is, now that the Coalition has international backing, the defeat of the dictator, the

    Reply

  28. Don Bacon says:

    Drew, thanks.
    I think that James Madison made a really powerful argument (recognized again above), one that has its origin with the Magna Carta, 1215. After King John waged several unsuccessful, senseless wars, the barons, sick of financing wars in which they had no interest, temporarily ended John’s despotism by forcing him to sign the Magna Carta.
    The king now had to get the barons’ okay, because they had to pay for it and supply the people, before a foreign foray. The same principal was applied by the Founding Fathers to the Constitution.
    from Thomas E. Woods, Jr.:
    The Framers of the US Constitution were abundantly clear in assigning to Congress what David Gray Adler has called “senior status in a partnership with the president for the purpose of conducting foreign policy.” Consider what the Constitution has to say about foreign affairs. Congress possesses the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations,” “to raise and support Armies,” to “grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal,” to “provide for the common Defense,” and even “to declare War.” Congress shares with the president the power to make treaties and to appoint ambassadors. As for the president himself, he is assigned only two powers relating to foreign affairs: he is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and he has the power to receive ambassadors.(end)
    James Madison had a particularly strong argument. He said: “Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded. They are barred from the latter functions by a great principle in free government, analogous to that which separates the sword from the purse, or the power of executing from the power of enacting laws.”
    Madison’s argument has been unrecognized recently, which was the point of Rachel Maddow’s question to Steve Clemons. The president — like King John — should have to get the okay from the people who have to finance and provide the people to these wars before he starts them. As we’ve seen, the decisions for attacks and invasions are not that difficult compared to the decisions and hardships required to “raise and support Armies.”
    The alternative, as we have seen, the old King John version, is wars that are impulsively started and then the people are forced to pay for them, just as was the case before the Magna Carta. Now it’s: We must support the troops that the president, without getting permission from the taxpayers, sent off to war.
    It’s wrong, without question.

    Reply

  29. DakotabornKansan says:

    I, like Don Bacon, also once took that oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic.
    Our founding fathers recognized that the greatest threat to our nation was war with all the vested interests that grow from it.
    James Madison, the chief author of our Constitution, spoke of this threat:

    Reply

  30. Cee says:

    What Intervention in Libya Tells us About the Neocon-liberal Alliance
    By Stephen M. Walt
    March 21, 2011 “Foreign Policy” – – Last Wednesday I spoke at an event at Hofstra University, on the subject of “Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy.” The other panelists were former DNC chair and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean and longtime Republican campaign guru Ed Rollins. The organizers at Hofstra were efficient and friendly, the audience asked good questions, and I thought both Dean and Rollins were gracious and insightful in their comments. All in all, it was a very successful session.
    During the Q & A, I talked about the narrowness of foreign policy debate in Washington and the close political kinship between the liberal interventionists of the Democratic Party and the neoconservatives that dominate the GOP. At one point, I said that “liberal inteventionists are just

    Reply

  31. Ajaz Haque says:

    UN RESOLUTION IS TO PROTECT LIBYANS, NOT KILL THEM. BY ATTACKING CIVILIANS IN TRIPOLI, U.S. UK & FRANCE HAVE EXCEEDED THE MANDATE.
    http://blameislam.blogspot.com/

    Reply

  32. Don Bacon says:

    Let’s state the obvious — Steve Clemons was wrong to answer Rachel Maddow incorrectly and to give Obama a pass for “acting within the letter of the law,” and a further pass for merely “consulting with Congress” when starting a war against a sovereign country that has done nothing to the U.S., and until recently was in fact a close ally of the U.S.
    The Constitution is clear, the War Powers Act is clear, Obama’s past statements as a constitutional scholar are clear — what Obama did was unconstitutional and he violated his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” I gave some of the evidence above.
    I, and many others, once took an oath also, and it went a little further: “. . .do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic,. . .”
    Obama is a “domestic enemy” of the Constitution. Why can’t Steve Clemons say so, and not give Obama a wink and a nod when he acts like an oligarch.

    Reply

  33. drew says:

    Someone tell me again how Bush went to war without consulting Congress and receiving its authorization. There were 23
    Congressional writs authorizing executive action. I’m actually befuddled by people saying Obama is acting like Bush. Bush
    went to Congress, and it took months, and received 23 writs authorizing action. Clinton didn’t, when he bombed, and
    Obama hasn’t, when he went on vacation, errr, bombed and went on vacation.

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  34. Drew says:

    Don Bacon, great post on war powers and the constitution. I don’t
    think I could write a satire of this war, simply a farce. But it would
    be a National Lampoon sort of farce, with lots of body humor,
    because these people astound me in their narcissism and parochial
    biases.
    We’re reaching the point of fiscal insanity at the same time, and one
    wonders what we’re supposed to do to defend our own stored
    wealth, our lifetimes of stored wealth, when Samantha Powers
    needs it in order to bomb salt, in order to write a screenplay and
    her next book.

    Reply

  35. Warren Metzler says:

    I am filled with responses to Steve, and most of the posters. Although POA has informed me that I am unequivocally insane and incapable of rational arguments by my insistence that each situation be assessed on its own merits, and that conclusions about the viability of an action be withheld until after an event is over (I’m fine POA 🙂 ); I must once again speak up.
    First war. War is an irrelevant term, unless it refers to a specific set of actions. And I suggest the following. War is present when country A, or group of people A, attack country B with the intention of subduing B; being able to use the citizens and resources of B for A’s benefit.
    If A, or group of people A, take a military action against B, solely because elements of B are behaving badly, and as soon as that bad behavior ceases, the military action ceases, that is not war, that is a police action.
    Why is it necessary to distinguish between words? Because all clarity relies on accurate distinction of words.
    Morality is about obtaining a proper outcome. Morality is never a function of whether a previous administrative action (such as a UN charter, or a US law) gives or doesn’t give permission for any one action. I agree with the rule of law. But there are so many infractions of laws in the US that are vastly more detrimental to Americans and citizens of the world than this no fly zone in Libya, of which I rarely hear fulminations from TWN posting crew, that I have assumed something else is going on in this massive outcry of the terribleness of this nfz in Libya.
    Here in 2011 citizens of Arab countries are rising up in unprecedented numbers, demanding the personal rights (all of us in Western countries take for granted), for the first time in their histories. Yes they had previous rebellions, but for freedom from then current massive oppression, not for personal freedoms. We in the west should be cheering from the rafters for this. Because this movement, if it spreads sufficiently through the rest of the world, is the only viable solution for the world wide peace most admit they want.
    In Egypt and Tunisia, and apparently now in Yemen, and hopefully soon in Bahrain, the governments appear rational enough to limit their killings to a few, allowing continuing of demonstrations to eventually achieve regime change. But Kadhafi is a unique totally immoral evil man, up there with Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, etc., who obviously has no problem with eliminating massive numbers of Libyan people; (in every town his forces has retaken they have indiscriminately fired on innocent civilians and houses). And if he is not stopped by people other than Libyans, the only possible outcome is prolonged civil war with massive destruction; at which point I expect TWN current anti-nfz posters to wail loud and long about man’s inhumane tendencies, wondering how Western powers could have allowed this destruction.
    So regardless of whether Sarkozy is doing this to ensure re-election, or Cameron has ulterior motives, of Obama is heeding some unknown paymaster; all of which may be true; this nfz is a moral action, that is eminently needed, which will save many lives and a lot of property.
    And even though Steve and prominent Western reporters are worried that the Libyan opposition can’t make it, I say we are on the cusp of a major beneficial new world order (far different than what Bush senior predicted), and let’s for once take a leap of faith and be on the right side of history.

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  36. karenk says:

    couldn’t just stand by and let Ghaddafi slaughter people-clearly he is crazy if you heard his speech the man is schizophrenic, IMPO.

    Reply

  37. Don Bacon says:

    Granny wrote the song about Bush but as Levin says, what’s the difference.

    Reply

  38. Don Bacon says:

    Every little once in a while, a U.S. senator screws up and tells the truth, as Senator Durbin did when he said a while back that the banks own the senate.
    Here’s another more recent example:
    Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a supporter of the U.S. mission in Libya and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that if Obama’s actions on Libya are impeachable, then so are the acts of every other president since World War II who launched military operations without authorization.
    THE GREAT DECIDER
    Sung to The Great Pretender
    Lyrics by Granny Kathy
    Oh yes, I’m the Great Decider
    Executive Privilege is mine
    I use it a lot if I’m put on the spot
    When Congress is hot on my heels
    I’m not willing to make any deals!
    (one verse of several)

    Reply

  39. Don Bacon says:

    some humor:
    “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” — President Obama, Jan 21, 2009

    Reply

  40. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Obama is going ‘way off the reservation here, and the impeachment talk is welcome and fitting”
    And utterly and completely toothless. Its mere pandering. No one is going to institute honest efforts at impeachment.

    Reply

  41. Don Bacon says:

    On the general subject of War Powers, the UNSC resolution was illegal also. The UN was established to mediate international relations and not interfere in internal national disputes with military force.
    There is nothing in the UN Charter that authorizes this unprecedented foray into the thicket of an internal national uprising by armed Libyan rebels.

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  42. Don Bacon says:

    Once again the U.S. president is acting illegally, being instrumental in initiating an international war.
    The Constitution is clear that the Congress and not the president has the authority to declare war.
    Section 8 – Powers of Congress
    The Congress shall have Power To. . . declare War,
    President Obama, as a former constitutional scholar, knows this. from a Dec 20, 2007 interview:
    OBAMA: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent.”
    James Madison laid out the reasoning many years ago: Madison insisted that the power of commander in chief be kept separate from the power to take the nation to war:

    Reply

  43. JohnH says:

    Helena Cobban has a great analysis of the West behaving as Keystone Kops.
    http://justworldnews.org/archives/004181.html
    Of course, the US military has been taking the role of the Keystone Kops for a while now, which is why they are still in Afghanistan 10 years later, and nothing to show for its efforts. You can only watch the same thing play out so many times before the comedy becomes a tragedy.
    But now we have a new script for Libya. It’s clear that Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron have no idea what they’re doing. But apparently, being proactive is better than purposeful when you have such enormous destructive capabilities at your finger tips. Such waste not to use such cool, expensive toys!
    Sadly, as these idiots are soon to learn, it’s an even greater waste to use them in embarrassing, counterproductive ways.

    Reply

  44. JohnH says:

    You have to believe that the Russian, Chinese, Iranian…and oh, the Israeli governments are all secretly snickering about this. A bankrupt America gets stuck with a tar baby distraction in Libya.
    That will tie Obama down to the point where the US will continue to be ineffective most everywhere, not that the point of the Nowhere Man was to have effect change anyway.

    Reply

  45. Cee says:

    I saw Paul Wolfowitz giving his support to the attacks on CNN yesterday. No shock.
    http://www.activistpost.com/2011/03/surprising-pnac-connection-to-libya.html

    Reply

  46. Paul Norheim says:

    Once again, I suspect that the West is projecting its own concepts and narrative
    upon a country without sufficient knowledge of the local facts. In Vietnam, to
    name one disastrous example, they mistook anti-colonial (anti-French) patriotism
    for communism; in Libya they want to protect and support what they regard as
    pro-democracy forces in their revolt against a tyrant, but who may turn out to be
    tribal and provincial forces involved in a civil war.
    In both cases – Vietnam and Libya – the West acted not due to worries for that
    particular country, but in the context of a larger narrative – the Cold War, the Arab
    Spring. But if they get the facts on the ground wrong, the local circumstances,
    their actions may be counterproductive within the larger picture too.
    I would be happy if I’m proven wrong on this – or if the ongoing events in Yemen
    provides sufficient momentum for the Arab spring to continue, while the West
    argue about who will be in charge of the Libyan operations in the coming weeks.

    Reply

  47. Paul Norheim says:

    Excellent article in the NYT today, highlighting the factors in Libyan society
    and history that made me doubt a positive outcome of the current military
    operations:
    “TRIPOLI

    Reply

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