Let me start by saying that participating in the United Nations coalition force that has hit Libyan military targets is the humanitarian course of action and must be done. Libya, under the rule of Moammar Ghadafi is a failed state. He has abused the people under his rule for over 40 years. His recent air strikes on civilians in his own nation are beyond any civilized nation. His time is up.
President Obama aptly used a multilateral approach in organizing action against Ghadafi and received the backing of both the United Nations and the Arab League. Additionally, he sought to allow other nations to take the lead in the air strike.
With that said, numerous questions and uncertainties still exist about the situation. First, what is the ultimate 'endgame' scenario for the United States? If Ghadafi is toppled, who would rise to leadership? Also, what will this do to America's international reputation?
These are valid questions to ask, but the real question is -- does the president even have authority to commit the military?
That remains to be seen at this point. Congress has not declared war and has not authorized the use of force. The real contention deals with the interpretation of the War Powers Act of 1973, which allows the president to deploy the military for up to 60 days without congressional authorization. Part of the act reads,
(c) The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
Congressman Ron Paul (R- Texas) has been the leading voice in pushing this perspective and according to the statute, I believe he is correct. Other Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio), have contended the president has not fulfilled other parts of the War Powers Act, including the need to define the scope of the action and a time frame.
Strangely, the authority of the president to use the military without the consent of Congress is not a new concept. In 1999, then President Bill Clinton acted without approval from Congress in conducting bombings on Serbia to stop the 'ethnic cleansing' by Slobodan Milosevic.
The American invasion into Panama a decade earlier also raised more than a few eyebrows in what was perhaps a stretch in justification of capturing Manuel Noriega.
Also, as emergency situations have arisen, presidents have been able to consolidate power. After 9/11, Americans have been more than willing to allow the chief executive to have carte blanche with respect to his power. This is always the case when the nation is hit with a crisis.
So does the president have the authority to attack Libya? I'm still uncertain. But is Obama doing what's right? Absolutely. With air strikes on innocent people, can Obama afford to stand idly by while people are slaughtered? In some instance, humans are not afforded the luxury of thinking long term.
American foreign policy is primarily directed by the president, however Congress still has the ultimate weapon. They have the ability to cut military funding and end any foreign conflict. I hope they stand down on this one ...
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