Congress should end US action in Libya
Published: Sunday, June 19, 2011
Updated: Sunday, June 19, 2011 16:06
At what point, in regards to the conflict in Libya, is the current administration acting outside the law? A lawsuit filed this week against the president shows Congress is prepared to ask this question.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers filed suit against President Obama for "taking military action against Libya without war authorization from Congress." The plaintiffs include Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.).
The president's 90-day deadline for use of military force expired Friday, June 17, in accordance with the War Powers Resolution. Obama has yet to seek approval from Congress for the military intervention in Libya, even though it appears that the objective of that mission has now changed. Although the United States is officially abiding by a United Nations mandate that limits NATO to protecting civilians; a senior U.S. official recently said that the U.S. and its NATO allies "are stepping up military operations against Muammar Gaddafi, hoping for a final ‘squeeze' to drive him from power — or possibly kill him," according to Reuters.
Early on, the U.S. held a lead role in the extensive operation in Libya, though NATO holds official command granted by the United Nations Security Council's resolution to establish a ‘no-fly zone.' The bombing, code-named Operation Odyssey Dawn, began March 19, on the eighth anniversary of the Iraq War, aka Operation New Dawn.
So far, the Libyan war effort has included targeted daytime bombing of the densely populated city of Tripoli and air strikes on Gaddafi's residences; yet, the administration fights criticism by debating whether there is even a ‘war' at all, as administration lawyers cite some semantic argument over the word ‘hostilities.'
"U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops," the White House argued in a 38-page report to lawmakers, according to the New York Times.
In a later report by the Times, published online Friday evening, the president reportedly "rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department" and adopted the legal analysis of senior members of his own legal team, instead.
The Obama administration has set precedent by declaring an ongoing high-tech military strike involving remote-controlled weapons does not constitute actual warfare. The operator of a Predator drone, comfortably seated in a swivel chair while killing targets on a computer screen, may agree, but people on the ground in Tripoli, in the midst of daily bombardments, likely beg to differ.
The continued hawkish behavior from the White House seems to support the desires of the U.N. and other Western interests, not the will of the American public nor their elected representatives.
Recent CBS and Fox News polls found that roughly 60 percent of Americans oppose U.S. military involvement in Libya. Two weeks ago, the U.S. House passed a bill demanding that Obama "provide detailed information on the deployment" to Congress within fourteen days, according to the Washington Times.
Congress should seize this moment as an opportunity to exercise a check on the president and put an end to the spread of conflict in the region. Further intervention, such as a U.N. resolution on Syria, will only weaken relationships with countries such as Russia and China. Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Hu Jintao issued a written warning, this week, against Western interference in the region, according to an Agence France-Presse report.
The likelihood of an escalated military commitment in Libya is shameful, considering the U.S. economy hangs in such a perilous condition — on the verge of lowered credit ratings and a possible shift in status as the world's reserve currency.
"The first day of Operation Odyssey Dawn had a price tag that was well over $100 million for the U.S. in missiles alone," according to a report in the National Journal.
This is a cost the U.S. clearly can't sustain at a time when the Treasury is tapping into federal retirees " pensions to help fund a bankrupt government.
A victory for Congress on this matter is a victory for the American people.