Redefining War Downwards

So let me get this straight. Obama is not in his actions in Libya violating the War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973, because Libya doesn’t count as a war? You can’t make this stuff up. It goes without saying that if Bush had done something so brazen, Obama and many of his other left-liberal critics would have likely—and correctly—called him out on it.

Arguably, even Bush did not do anything quite so bold regarding presidential warmaking. Now, under the Constitution, I believe that the Iraq war was also unconstitutional, for Congress never formally declared the war. But the federal legislature did, at least, empower Bush through a resolution to wage war on his own terms. This was a despicable forfeiture of constitutional authority, and many have compellingly argued that Gulf War II was no less unconstitutional, despite Congress’s passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. Yet Obama has been even more explicit in his rejection of procedural niceties than Bush, for, after having argued that the administration’s conduct of the Libya war was legal under the sixty-day grace period afforded to the president under the War Powers Resolution, the administration switched gears and argued that operations in Libya were not bound by the 1973 Act at all. The last president to demonstrate such temerity was Clinton, in regard to Kosovo. But this is perhaps even worse, as Clinton didn’t play the American people for quite the fools as Obama is doing.

A bipartisan group of Congressmembers have sued in federal court, asserting that Obama has overstepped his bounds in Libya. House Speaker Boehner has called on Obama to explain himself. Obama’s war in Libya is so outrageous and so devoid of justification that even the hawkish Republicans, who typically criticize Democrats for being too soft on foreign policy, are sounding like doves—at the last GOP presidential debate, not a single one of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination supported the Libya war.

Obama has now violated statutory as well as constitutional limits on his war power, all to bring about regime change in a country when he denied three months ago that this was the end goal of his intervention. But he would have us believe that this is not a war. It is just bombing and killing and using the military in support of a NATO operation to liberate a foreign country from a foreign dictator.

Americans were upset when Clinton tried to redefine the word “is,” but even his verbal gymnastics in the Lewinsky scandal had a tittle of plausibility to them compared to what we are hearing from the current administration. More important, they did not involve matters of life and death.

Anthony Gregory is a former Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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