Congress still not biting on Libya
July 1st, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Congress still not biting on Libya

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of "America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy." Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. Lindsay

wrote two weeks ago that nothing would come of congressional efforts to reverse President Obama on Libya. Lo and behold, lawmakers have given speeches, pounded tables, and held votes.

The sum total of all this activity is that Congress has let the White House have its way.

True, the House did refuse last week to vote to authorize the Libya mission, a step that numerous media outlets called a “historic rejection.”

It was, at least in the same way that the 1847 House vote denouncing the Mexican-American War for being “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun” was a rebuke of President Polk. Both votes go into the history books, but neither changed anything.

This week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee formally repudiated the legal arguments that the White House has used to defend its position on Libya.

The committee then voted 14-5 to authorize President Obama to continue current military operations.

Readers who like to see the glass half full can say that Congress at least tried to assert its war powers authority and that it failed for all understandable reasons: disagreement on the merits of the president’s policy; a fear of the consequences for U.S. credibility abroad in saying no to the White House; and plain partisan politics.

The downside to Congress’s failure either to authorize the Libya mission or forbid it is that claims that the president possesses an independent war-making authority just got a little stronger. President Obama says today that the Libyan operation doesn’t rise to the level of “hostilities” or set a precedent. But you can bet that his successors will argue tomorrow that it is a powerful precedent that enables them to act as they see fit.

Such is the way that constitutional authorities get redefined and reshaped.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of James M. Lindsay.

Post by:
Topics: Law • Libya • United States

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. THE

    I found the following News Item on the Internet, and it is Titled: Op-Ed: Mission in Libya becomes Obama’s albatross.

    Washington – As US military operations in Libya have settled into a drawn out war, President Obama will look back on his own Ides of March moment where he announced Libya as his next target, carelessly dooming his chance for a second term in office.
    Before going any further, a precursory warning is in place here for links in this article to extremely graphic, horrifying, and disturbing video footage, some might suggest related to Obama’s fateful March decision.
    With reams of misinformation circulating on the Libyan war, coming from all sides, one has to ask, where is the truth? Based on the US government’s track record of lies, deceit and coverup, it’s unlikely to come from that direction. What was to be a limited military operation is now in its fourth month, and reports from the UK suggest the now-NATO-led war is running out of funds to operate much longer in the oil-rich nation.
    As civilian casualties mount in the Libyan conflict, the Arab League, instrumental in the days preceding the bombing campaign, is shifting gears. Amr Moussa, outgoing boss of the Arab League, recently told the Guardian: “When I see children being killed, I must have misgivings. That’s why I warned about the risk of civilian casualties.”
    In June, NATO admitted a missile missed its target and instead killed at least nine civilians, including children. Libyan officials claim 15 more civilians were killed in another NATO strike, a claim NATO denies. If Arab support for the war continues eroding, a likely scenario as civilians continue paying the price, western forces will only hasten a demise some saw coming before the first bomb lit up the Libyan night sky.
    The civilian deaths come after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, attempting to justify an attack on Libya, in March said: “The world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed,” reported by Fox News. Apparently, she forgot to tell NATO.
    Throw into the mix videos of hangings (you were warned) apparently taking place on Libyan streets and suggestively done by the hands of rebels backed by NATO, Britain, France and the US, and the world’s new order deserves its chaos. While YouTube may have a graphic content policy, the Democracy from Benghazi video can be viewed on the Facebook page of Global Civilians for Peace in Libya. So far.
    With a bit of search, you may also discover videos of a young boy being sodomized and a man being beheaded. Regardless of where it’s happening, the disgust is overwhelming. If it’s happening in Libya, while the US attempts to bomb yet another country into democracy, Obama’s albatross is gaining weight.
    “You can’t have a decisive ending. Now is the time to do whatever we can to reach a political solution,” Moussa added. His words should carry some merit, as he is seen as a frontrunner for Egypt’s new president, should the country settle down enough for transition to democracy.
    Nor will there be a decisive ending as new reports trickle in over NATO’s arming of Libyan rebels. Britain Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Thursday his country is within its right to supply government protesters body armor, police uniforms, high visibility vests and the always popular gimme t-shirts.
    “This equipment will enable the civilian police to carry out their functions more securely and better protect National Transitional Council representatives and the significant international and NGO communities in Benghazi, Misurata and other areas of Libya,” Hague said, the New York Times reports.
    If the Benghazi hanging video carries any merit, then Hague’s comment of a “significant international and NGO” community in Benghazi is as disturbing as the video.
    Britain’s announcement comes a day after France confirmed it has been supplying weapons to Libyan rebels. Col. Thierry Burkhard, a French military spokesman, said while airdropping water, food, and medical supplies to the rebels, weapons were also delivered. “During this operation, troops also airdropped arms and ammunition several times, including assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and launchers,” according to the Times.
    Ironically, and in a too-good-to-be-true fashion, the weapons dropped for a group of rebels in the mountain town of Rujban were all stolen by rebels from the nearby town of Zintan, who refused to share their newfound prizes with other area fighters.
    There are few reports available questioning why, if NATO is supporting government forces with food, water, clothing, medical supplies and weapons, there is an ongoing stalemate in the war. Is it because government loyalists, perhaps, greatly outnumber the government opposition?
    Many predicted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi would be a formidable foe going into this disaster, but testosterone in all its guises, from a skinny-shouldered president to a scary secretary of state to countless military personnel, all on the government payroll, are attempting to justify the world’s most expensive defense budget.
    According to McClatchy, military officials state US objectives in the open-ended conflict in Libya are ill-defined, as American leaders are relying solely on air power and diplomacy is not a part of the game plan.
    In what was initially called a campaign to protect civilians, thousands of anti-government forces in Libya have been killed in little more than three months. Still, barackstar this week defended his decision to involve American taxpayers in a fifth public war.
    “We’ve protected thousands of people in Libya, we have not seen a single U.S. casualty, there’s no risks of additional escalation, the operation is limited in time and scope,” the president said during a lengthy news conference on Wednesday. It was merely a reiteration of his March justification for going to war in the first place.
    Validating what many officials claim is a lack of diplomacy, Obama added the noose is tightening around Gaddafi and “he needs to go.”
    At a time when America’s political system is a shambles, thanks in no small part to an American populace caring only for cheap entertainment, with their own fate being of little concern, the president has taken it upon himself to continue the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts which have now spread to Pakistan, Yemen and Libya.
    Almost three years into this presidency, the change we bought has proved to be a glaring counterfeit. Instead of change, the Bush agenda has been alive now for more than a decade. Wars, high fuel prices, record numbers of unemployed or looking for work, record home foreclosures, lines in the soup kitchens, it just goes on.
    Adding insult to the ongoing quagmire the US currently finds itself in, another similarity between Bush and Obama has surfaced. Amnesty International, in an investigation of alleged mass rape and other human rights abuses which the US, NATO, government opposition in Libya, and of course, the media began touting in February as reason for war, has found no evidence of such atrocities and in some cases has discredited them, according to The Independent.
    This latest bit of news goes against what the International Criminal Court (ICC) believes, as it recently said it had “information” on a rape policy instituted by the Gaddafi government. In mid-May, ICC Prosecutor luis Moreno-Ocampo requested arrest warrants for Gaddafi and senior members in the Libyan government over the information.
    Secretary of State Clinton, with her polished ability to fan flames, regardless of their location, said last week: “Rape, physical intimidation, sexual harassment, and even so-called 'virginity tests' have taken place in countries throughout the region,” The Independent reports. The virginity tests she referred to in countries throughout the region have been occurring in Egypt.
    Obama’s approval rating has been going down for many reasons, not least of which is the Libyan conflict and its associated coverup. While the president claims a limited role in the war, more information surfaces on the US use of drones and ongoing airstrikes, even as the White House turned operations over to NATO.
    The Libyan government has repeatedly called for a cease-fire in an attempt to negotiate a settlement, yet the US and NATO, once again in their testosterone-induced stupor, have left diplomacy off the table. The American people are growing increasingly tired of war and its sacred cash cow, a bloated military budget, yet all our president can talk about are his wealthy campaign donors. As if they’re listening.
    Since Sen. Bernie Sanders took Obama to task earlier this week, every other phrase from the president is now “millionaires and billionaires, oil companies and corporate jet owners.” A bit of originality would help. Whether we care to admit it or not, originality departed the scene along with hope and change, three years ago.
    Making a dire situation even worse, we have an election coming up next year and all the Republicans can offer as an alternative is nothing, announced or unannounced. Either way, the American public gets the short end of the stick.
    Obama said in March, when stating his decision to attack Libya, “We must be clear: actions have consequences.” As in crystal clear, as in “consequences” lives on a two-way street. Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/308610#ixzz1QqqHeEYz.

    July 1, 2011 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      The Congress can re-address the issue in September, when the conflicht is still on-going. Despite efforts of NATO and its allies to step up the aggression, I doubt if they can topple Gaddafi's regime in due course. He has proven himself very shrewd and resilient and he is not without support. Even if his regime crumbles, Libyans who are loyal to him might not submit themselves to the new regime.
      How much has the mission cost the U.S. sofar? The Brits estimate £300 million for their participation.

      July 1, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Reply
    • Hangon

      In the past everytime the Libyan government had requested a "Ceasefire" it was followed by a large scale military offensive by the Libyan government.

      Ceasefire = Give me a few days so I can wipe out the rebels.

      July 17, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  2. Observer1290

    We are on the road to hell:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKyHKHt6vfs&w=640&h=390]

    July 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,675 other followers