Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hostilities


In response to congressional demands for a report on why the war in Libya doesn’t violate the War Powers Act, the Obama admin released a report (pdf) today saying the war in Libya doesn’t violate the War Powers Act. So that settles that.

In fact, the War Powers Act doesn’t even apply to this little contretemps. “Given the important U.S. interests served by U.S. military operations in Libya...” Oh, this war is for important interests, why didn’t you say so. “...and the limited nature, scope and duration of the anticipated actions...” Oh, is that what you anticipated. Incidentally, the limited duration of the anticipated actions was just extended by NATO through September. “...the President had constitutional authority, as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive and pursuant to his foreign affairs powers...” What foreign affairs powers are those? To appoint ambassadors, subject to Senate confirmation, to negotiate treaties, ditto, and that’s it. And as to his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive and Chief Chief Chief, where in the Constitution does it say he gets to bomb any country he wants? “...to direct such limited military operations abroad. 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...” Further? When has there been any? “...because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.” Actually, the War Powers Act applies to “any case in which U.S. Armed Forces are introduced into hostilities.”

“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. U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.” So it’s Vietnam 1962, not Vietnam 1966.

The argument isn’t just that it’s such a small war that it’s not worth bothering Congress’s pretty head about – compared to the currency our many “real” wars, it’s the take-a-penny-leave-a-penny bowl – but that it’s not real “hostilities” if Americans aren’t dying, only Libyans are, because wogs don’t count.

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